By staff writers

February 13, 2018 -- Functional MRI (fMRI) of blood flow in the brain is offering insight into why people become combative after drinking alcohol. Study results were published online January 8 in Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience.

Researchers led by Thomas Denson, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at the University of New South Wales in Australia, discovered changes in the prefrontal cortex in healthy men after two drinks. That region of the brain is associated with the control of aggression.

The study included 50 men who were given either two drinks containing vodka or two drinks with no alcohol. Then, while in an MRI scanner, they competed in a task to determine their reactions to being provoked.

While the provocation had no effect on the subjects' neural responses, Denson and colleagues observed a decrease in activity in the prefrontal cortex of men who had the vodka. At the same time, there was increased activity in the hippocampus, which is associated with memory.

The findings follow previous results from studies on the neural basis of aggression and how it can be triggered by changes in the prefrontal cortex, the limbic system, and areas of the brain associated with reward.

"We encourage future, larger-scale investigations into the neural underpinnings of alcohol-related aggression with stronger doses and clinical samples," Denson said in a statement. "Doing so could eventually substantially reduce alcohol-related harm."

Copyright © 2018

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