MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Erica Grodin, Ph.D.
Dept. of Psychology and Psychiatry
University of California
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: The hallmark of addictive disorders, including alcohol use disorder, is drug use that continues despite negative consequences. This pattern of use is referred to as “compulsive” and is one of the major barriers to treating addiction. We don’t yet fully understand what brain regions are responsible for compulsive alcohol use.
Our study used a neuroimaging method called functional magnetic resonance imaging which allows us to see which areas of the brain are more active when an individual is performing a task. To investigate what brain regions are involved in compulsive alcohol seeking, we designed a task during which study participants could try to earn alcohol and food points at the risk of receiving a negative consequence, an electric shock. Study participants were light drinkers (men who drank <15 drinks/week and women who drank <10 drinks/week) and heavy drinkers (men who drank ≥20 drinks/week and women who drank ≥15 drinks/week).
We found that heavy drinking individuals were more likely to try to earn alcohol points that were paired with a potential negative consequence than light drinkers were. This behavior of compulsive alcohol seeking was associated with increased brain activation in the medial prefrontal cortex, anterior insula, and ventral and dorsal striatum.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: This is the first study to examine compulsive alcohol seeking in a heavy drinking sample. This study identifies brain regions which may be involved in compulsive alcohol seeking. These regions may be targeted by treatments to help reduce compulsive alcohol use in heavy drinkers.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: Future research studies should investigate if similar brain circuitry is involved in compulsive drug use for other addictive disorders.
Erica N. Grodin, Lauren Sussman, Kelsey Sundby, Grace M. Brennan, Nancy Diazgranados, Markus Heilig, Reza Momenan. Neural Correlates of Compulsive Alcohol Seeking in Heavy Drinkers. Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.bpsc.2018.06.009
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