A new study revealed that women who are alcohol addicts are more prone to take risky decisions on what and when to drink than non-addicted women. Indiana’s University research showed clear different patterns which also show different effects of alcohol upon men and women.
Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to show pattern networks in the brain of addicted women, which may conduct to the development of treatments against alcohol addiction.
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Studies on alcohol addiction in both genres
This study conducted by the team of researchers from the Indiana University is part of a bigger study on how alcohol affects men and women. Results found until now suggest women are highly susceptible to develop chronic severe condition rather than men are. Diseases with a high mortality rate, such as breast cancer, liver and kidney damage or cardiovascular disease, have an earlier trigger date in women. The amount of alcohol considered to be safe to drink for men on weekly basis is 14 drinks, but the number is twice as low in women, who should drink no more than 8 glasses each week.
Women are beginning to drink like their fathers
This mockery motivational image about women drinking habit may be true. 1 in 5 young women with alcoholic fathers indulge in heavy drinking three times a month, compared to 1 in 8 women between 18 and 54 years of age coming from families without heavy drinkers. Also in case of young age of alcohol addicted women, severe concerns about their safety arose.
Low risk situation and high-risk situations
Studies conducted to show behavioral patterns in addicts consist in having them make a decision. They are offered two options, one low-risk and the other high-risk, the responses being analyzed with the fMRI. The low-risk plot implies they receive 2 free shots and they have a safe transportation ensured. In the high-risk situation scenario they are offered 6 free drinks, but they have no safe transportation mean.
Researchers wanted to use such extreme scenarios to obtain clear results.
Results in the control group
Women in the control group who chose to take the risky situations deactivated the brain parts associated with “approach behavior” . Instead, their decision lead to the activation of a brain part associated with a sort of “default mode”, a relaxed state of mind.
Alcohol addicted women group’s results
The results of the fMRI scans from the women addicted returned a rather strange result. They didn’t deactivate any sector in the brain when they made a high-risk decision. Brain regions associated with reward, which are responsible for releasing dopamine, frontal lobes associated with cognitive control and areas associated with “default mode” were all active. Thus, women were unable to make any decision, as they were unable to come up with a particular strategy.
Insula may be guilty
Researchers concluded the incapability of switching-off brain areas is linked to the brain area named insula and it’s activity. There were found clear differences on the insula between addicted women and non-addicted women. The study opens the path for further investigations of the matter and may help researchers develop a pill-based treatment and a behavioral therapy treatment.