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Study uncovers surprising differences in brain activity of alcohol-dependent women
Date:2/18/2014

nt individuals typically involves a general risk-taking situation in which money or points are at stake. In this study, participants were placed in the fMRI brain scanner and asked to consider low-risk and high-risk situations specifically related to alcohol -- what the researchers describe as "ecological" tasks. Participants were then asked to make decisions regarding control stimuli -- food as well as a presumably neutral stimuli, a stapler -- to observe whether risky behavior was greater with respect to drinking than with these other items. The same picture cues were used to present high-risk and low-risk scenarios, and these two extremes were as follows:

For the low-risk situation, participants were told: Imagine you are at a bar. You are offered a drink, already paid for, with two shots of alcohol, and you have a safe ride home. For the high-risk, they were told: You are at a bar and are offered a drink already paid for, with six shots of alcohol, but you do not have a safe ride home.

The reason for such an extreme contrast between the two situations, Arcurio said, is that "as one of the first ecological tasks used in the scanner, we wanted to take a sledgehammer approach to really find the differences between cases that are definitely high-risk and those that are definitely low-risk."

The findings, however, reflect an equally sharp contrast in differences between the brain network activation in alcohol-dependent women versus the controls.

For the control group, high-risk decisions to drink led to the deactivation of regions associated with "approach behavior," deciding to take the drink in a risky situation. Conversely, women in the control group activate regions associated with the default mode network, a region traditionally thought to involve resting-state behavior or inactive or relaxed mental state, but which some now speculate plays a role in conceptualizing one's future.

"It gets really interesting," Arcurio
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Contact: Liz Rosdeitcher
rosdeitc@indiana.edu
812-855-4507
Indiana University
Source:Eurekalert  

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