BLOOMINGTON -- A new Indiana University study that examines the brain activity of alcohol-dependent women compared to women who were not addicted found stark and surprising differences, leading to intriguing questions about brain network functions of addicted women as they make risky decisions about when and what to drink.
The study used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to study differences between patterns of brain network activation in the two groups of women. The findings indicate that the anterior insular region of the brain may be implicated in the process, suggesting a possible new target of treatment for alcohol-dependent women.
"We see that the network dynamics of alcohol-dependent women may be really different from that of healthy controls in a drinking-related task," said Lindsay Arcurio, a graduate student in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. "We have evidence to suggest alcohol-dependent women have trouble switching between networks of the brain."
The research is part of a larger new effort to understand the differences between men and women with respect to alcohol. Arcurio said most of the research on alcohol dependence has been conducted with men or groups of men and women. Yet several factors make looking at women "really important."
One such factor is that the physiological effects of drinking alcohol, which include liver damage, heart disease or breast cancer, set in much earlier in women than in men. For this reason, the suggested limit on the number of drinks per week that women can safely consume is eight, whereas for men, it is 14. Secondly, binge-drinking in women is on the rise. One in five adolescent girls is binge-drinking three times a month. In women between the ages of 18 and 54, that number is one in eight.
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|Contact: Liz Rosdeitcher|