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Measuring brain activity for emotional markers that may indicate risk for developing alcoholism

pression have demonstrated lower levels of electrical activity in the front left compared to the front right region of the brain." Yet very little, added Grekin, is known about EEG asymmetry and alcohol dependence. "Dr. Hayden's study is the first to directly address this issue."

Researchers compared resting brain activity in the anterior and posterior cortical regions of 193 individuals who had alcoholism with 108 individuals who did not have a history of psychopathology, including alcoholism. Within the alcoholism group alone, they also examined if a lifetime history of major depressive disorder (MDD) or antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) had effects on regional asymmetry.

"Major depression and antisocial behavior are both problems that commonly co-occur with alcoholism," explained Hayden, "but alcoholics who have these problems may differ [from individuals who do not] in terms of key characteristics related to personality and emotion. Thus, looking at these groups and how they differ on variables of interest may reveal more consistent, clear-cut patterns than looking at alcohol-dependent participants as a whole."

Study results indicate an imbalance in the right and left frontal cortex regions of the brain.

"We found that alcoholics had lower brain activity in left frontal areas relative to right frontal areas, as measured by EEG, when compared to nonalcoholics," said Hayden. "This is interesting because left frontal activity may reflect brain systems involved in acquiring rewards and the positive moods we feel when we obtain a desirable object or goal. Conversely, right frontal activity may be involved in inhibiting behavior in the face of negative consequences and the anxiety we feel in those circumstances." This imbalance, she speculated, may be genetically based at least partially.

Echoing Grekin's earlier remarks, Hayden noted that the pattern of asymmetry she found was similar to that found in indi
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26-Nov-2006


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