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More Evidence Male and Female Brains React Differently to Alcohol

Should men and women receive different treatments for alcohol abuse syndrome, often referred to as alcoholism?

That's a question under debate among specialists in the field.

But why would distinct treatment tracks be necessary?

Researchers have known for many years that abstinent alcoholic men have less brain activity in areas responsible for emotional processing than abstinent alcoholic women. They also have less brain activity in areas responsible for memory and social processing than abstinent alcoholic women.

Now researchers at V.A. Boston Healthcare have discovered another difference.

Male brains respond to emotional facial expressions differently than women's brains.

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure the brain activity of a group of men and women, with and without a history of alcoholism, while participants completed an emotional face memory task. They then measured brain activity when these subjects looked at plus signs and when they looked at photographs of faces with different facial expressions.

When conducting these experiments, the team found abnormalities in the brains of alcoholic men that differed from those in alcoholic women.

According to corresponding author and research scientist Kayle S. Sawyer, Ph.D., "…when we compared the groups, we noticed important differences in their levels of activation. For example, the alcoholic men showed abnormally high activity in the frontal area of the brain that was not obvious in the alcoholic women. These findings indicate that the experiences and mechanisms of alcohol addiction differ for the two genders."

The takeaway from all of this?

As in most things medical, there is no one size fits all. Therefore, consideration of individualized treatment plans for anyone struggling with alcoholism should be a priority.

If you're struggling with an addiction to alcohol and/or drugs and need help in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Florida, Southern Maine, and Indiana, the recovery teams at Aware Recovery Care are here to help. Our unique model of care is giving clients a significantly better chance of recovery when compared to traditional inpatient rehab care. To learn more, please contact one of our Recovery Specialists.

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