August 17, 2009

MRI: Alcoholics’ emotions malfunction

U.S. researchers say alcoholics display abnormal brain activity when processing facial expressions.

The Boston University Medical Center researchers -- using magnetic resonance imaging -- found chronic alcoholism linked to physiological brain changes in emotional functioning.

The study, published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, found people with a long history of alcoholism who have been abstinent for at least a month if not much longer, showed decreased and abnormal brain activity, compared to non-alcoholics, when looking at facial expressions -- in particular in the amygdala and hippocampus areas of the brain.

Since 'reading facial expressions' is an important part of social interaction, alcoholics as well as other previously addicted groups, may be suffering from brain abnormalities in parts of the brain that control emotional perception and memory, study author Marlene Oscar Berman says in a statement.