Brain Response May Cause Impulsive Behavior In Alcoholics

By Staff Writer

Differences in certain regions of the brain may play a large role in the degree to which a person who is addicted to alcohol is unable to control his or her impulses, according to a new study from the Mind Research Network.

It has long been known that impulse control problems were common among alcoholics. However, little was understood about what caused this. The new study shows that altered functioning of brain structures known as the insula and the supplementary motor cortex may explain the problem.

For the study, researchers asked a group of individuals who had sought treatment from drug rehab centers for alcoholism to decide whether they wanted a small monetary reward at the time of the interview or if they wanted to wait a couple weeks to get a larger reward. During the questioning, participants’ brains were scanned by MRI.

The results showed that those who chose the immediate reward had more engagement in the insula and supplementary motor cortex than those who delayed their reward. The researchers said that this suggests heightened activity in these areas, which are associated with emotional and conflict responses, may underlie impulsive behavior in alcoholics. Drug rehab centers can help these individuals deal with these issues.