Using brain activity to identify risk for disorders

hich alcoholism interacts with other psychiatric disorders, such as major depression, anxiety disorders and antisocial personality disorder. "Our study found that low P300 amplitude was a marker for alcoholism co-morbid with anxiety disorders," she said, "but not for non-anxious alcoholism. Is P300 a marker for other alcoholism subgroups, and if so, what are the underlying factors that link these groups? These questions need to be addressed."

"Alcoholism comes in many different forms," said Ehlers, "because different people have different risks. Someone who has conduct disorder and is at risk for alcoholism probably has a different set of genes coding for this vulnerability than someone who has anxiety disorder and is at risk for alcoholism, even though they both have alcoholism." She agreed that it is imperative to understand the different subgroups of alcoholism before discovering which genes are "coding" for particular disorders.

Yet, she added, "it is especially important for people to realize that risk doesn't equate disorder. Getting alcohol dependence is like going through a pinball machine. The ball bounces off of a number of different risk and protective factors. In the end, the accumulation of all of these 'encounters,' plus intangible factors such as free will, religion, culture, and family lead to a final phenotype. High risk doesn't equal alcoholism, however, an individual who has risk factors in his or her life needs to take greater care regarding their drinking behavior."



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