Apr 19, 2019 | Updated: 10:49 AM EDT

Brain’s Reward System Says That Alcoholism Tends To Be "More Rewarding" In Women Than Men

Apr 28, 2017 04:28 AM EDT

A bar tender pours a glass of Miller High Life beer at a bar on October 9, 2015 in New York City
(Photo : Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have conducted a collaborative study that has shown the difference of alcoholism to men and women. It particularly targeted the effects in the brain's reward system.

The study focused on determining whether the alcoholism-related reward system that was previously observed with men is similar with women. As it appears, it's not.

The study that was published in Psychiatry Research Neuroimaging, involved 30 men and 30 women with long-term alcoholism records and 60 nonalcoholic volunteers. The researchers found out that the average size of the reward region structures of alcoholic men was 4.1 percent smaller than nonalcoholic men, whereas, the average size of the reward region structures of alcoholic women were 4.4 percent larger than alcoholic women.

According to Knowing Neurons, the reward system of the brain involves the certain parts of the brain, particularly the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the nucleus accumbens, and the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for processing the rewards and punishments that follow from our actions.

However, women who drink alcohol and have alcohol-related problems are fewer than women, a study from National Center for Biotechnology Information suggests. Women have also higher risks in alcohol-related diseases compared to men.

The study also proved that there is a possibility of overall brain recovery from the effects of alcohol over time. This is because researchers found that there is a negative association between the length of moderation and the size of fluid ventricles in the center of the brain. However, the study was unable to determine whether these differences preceded or resulted from the development of alcoholism.

Researchers from BUSM are still planning to make a more detailed look at the impact of certain factors like the severity of drinking. They also hope to investigate if the differences they've seen in this study and the previous studies they have conducted that are related to gender-based differences in motivational and emotional functions are somehow associated.

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