May 08, 2017
1 min read

Reward system differs between men, women with alcoholism

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Recent findings indicated significant differences in reward system volumes between men and women with long-term chronic alcoholism.

“Until now, little has been known about the volume of the reward regions in alcoholic women, since all previous studies have been done in men,” study researcher Gordon Harris, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital, said in a press release. “Our findings suggest that it might be helpful to consider gender-specific approaches to treatment for alcoholism.”

To compare reward system volumes between men and women with alcohol addiction, researchers conducted morphometric analyses of MRIs among 60 individuals with long-term chronic alcoholism and 60 controls. The cohort included 30 men with alcoholism and 29 male controls.

Analyses indicated a significant gender interaction in the association between alcoholism and total reward network volumes, with smaller reward volumes among men with alcoholism vs. male controls and larger reward volumes among women with alcoholism vs. female controls.

Analyses of a priori subregions indicated a similar pattern with significant gender interactions for dorsolateral prefrontal and ventral diencephalon.

“We’re planning to take a more detailed look at the impact of factors such as the severity of drinking and the length of sobriety on specific brain structure, and hope to investigate whether the imaging differences seen in this and previous studies are associated with gender-based differences in motivational and emotional functions,” study researcher Marlene Oscar-Berman, PhD, of Boston University School of Medicine, said in the release. – by Amanda Oldt

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.