May 21, 2013

Brain Patterns May Help Predict Relapse Risk for Alcoholism

Hyperactivity in the prefrontal cortex while imagining a relaxing scene could mean that a personal in early stages of recovery from alcoholism could relapse. Actually, that person is eight times more likely to relapse, according to a new study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse.

Why do we need to know this?

“Reducing the high rate of relapse among people treated for alcohol dependence is a fundamental research issue,” said Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D., acting director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of NIH. “Improving our understanding of the neural mechanisms that underlie relapse will help us identify susceptible individuals and could inform the development of other prevention strategies.”

The prefrontal brain is the area that regulates emotions, suppresses urges and is involved in decision-making. If doctors can determine any damage that may have been done to this part of the brain, they may be able to help reduce or eliminate relapses in recovery.

“The patterns of brain activity we observed may one day serve as a neural marker that could help clinicians identify alcohol-dependent patients in recovery who are most at risk of relapse,” said Rajita Sinha, Ph.D., the study’s senior author, who is Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry and Professor in the Child Study Center and of Neurobiology at Yale University.

“Our findings may also have implications for the use of medications and behavioral treatments that restore prefrontal function, as they could potentially benefit people at high risk of relapse,” Dr. Sinha said.

 

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