Brain Circuits in Compulsive Alcohol Drinkers Identified

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Erica Grodin, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow Dept. of Psychology and Psychiatry  University of California

Dr. Grodin

Erica Grodin, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
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.  Continue reading

Alcoholism: Genetic Markers Determined For Abstinence Duration

Victor M. Karpyak, M.D., Ph.D.  Medical Director, Intensive Addiction Treatment Program Director, Mayo Clinic Addiction Services Consultant, Department of Psychiatry and Psychology  Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Mayo Clinic College of Medicine MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Victor M. Karpyak, M.D., Ph.D. 

Medical Director, Intensive Addiction Treatment Program
Director, Mayo Clinic Addiction Services
Consultant, Department of Psychiatry and Psychology
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry  Mayo Clinic College of Medicine

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Karpyak: The staggering costs of alcohol use disorders call for the development and implementation of evidence-based treatment strategies. Several medications (acamprosate, naltrexone, and disulfiram) were approved for treatment of alcohol use disorders; yet, only a fraction of patients respond to each medication. Clearly, response predictors are needed to improve treatment efficacy and personalize recommendations for treatment selection. It is expected that pharmacogenomic research will aid the discovery of such predictors.
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Study: Gene impedes recovery from Alcoholism

People who are alcohol-dependent and who also carry a particular variant of a gene run an increased risk of premature death. This is a recent finding from the interdisciplinary research at the Department of Psychology and the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Researchers in the longitudinal project Göteborg Alcohol Research Project (GARP) have been investigating the dopamine D2 receptor gene and found that a variant of this gene is overrepresented in people with severe alcohol dependency, and that it is linked to a number of different negative consequences that can be of vital significance to the person affected.

“Our research shows that alcohol-dependent individuals, who are also carriers of this gene variant, run 10 times the risk of dying prematurely, compared with the average population,” says Claudia Fahlke, a representative from the research team.

In a study published recently in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism (issue 46), the research team shows that this gene variant also appears to be associated with a higher tendency among these individuals to suffer a relapse, even if they have undergone treatment for their alcohol dependency. This may provide one explanation as to the higher mortality rate in people suffering from alcohol dependency, who are carriers of this gene variant.

“This knowledge emphasises the importance of developing methods for early identifying individuals who are also carriers of this gene variant, since the consequences can be so serious,” says Jan Balldin at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.