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Elife. 2019 Apr 30;8. pii: e41723. doi: 10.7554/eLife.41723.

Alcoholism gender differences in brain responsivity to emotional stimuli.

Author information

1
Psychology Research Service, VA Healthcare System, Boston, United States.
2
Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, United States.
3
Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, United States.
4
Sawyer Scientific, LLC, Boston, United States.
5
Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, United States.
6
Department of Psychology, San Diego State University, San Diego, United States.
7
Department of Computer Science, Dartmouth College, Hanover, United States.
8
3D Imaging Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, United States.
9
Department of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, United States.
10
Department of Neurology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, United States.

Abstract

Men and women may use alcohol to regulate emotions differently, with corresponding differences in neural responses. We explored how the viewing of different types of emotionally salient stimuli impacted brain activity observed through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) from 42 long-term abstinent alcoholic (25 women) and 46 nonalcoholic (24 women) participants. Analyses revealed blunted brain responsivity in alcoholic compared to nonalcoholic groups, as well as gender differences in those activation patterns. Brain activation in alcoholic men (ALCM) was significantly lower than in nonalcoholic men (NCM) in regions including rostral middle and superior frontal cortex, precentral gyrus, and inferior parietal cortex, whereas activation was higher in alcoholic women (ALCW) than in nonalcoholic women (NCW) in superior frontal and supramarginal cortical regions. The reduced brain reactivity of ALCM, and increases for ALCW, highlighted divergent brain regions and gender effects, suggesting possible differences in the underlying basis for development of alcohol use disorders.

KEYWORDS:

alcoholism; brain; emotion; fMRI; gender; human; human biology; medicine; neuroscience; sex

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