Strokes may cause increased preference for alcohol, research suggests

Brain changes after stroke may lead to increase in alcohol-seeking behavior, at least in animal models, according to research published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Although it is known that excessive alcohol intake (more than two drinks per day) is a risk factor for stroke, there hasn’t been much scientific study about how alcohol-related behavior might change after a stroke has occurred. When researchers at the Texas A&M College of Medicine looked into the issue, they found that strokes in a certain part of the brain increase alcohol-seeking behavior and preference for alcohol.

“It’s important because although stroke is a severe disease, more and more people are surviving and recovering after their first stroke,” said Jun Wang, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at the College of Medicine and co-principal investigator of this project. “Therefore, it is important to study behavior change after stroke, and how that behavior can affect the chances of having another one, which is often fatal.”

Full story of preferences in alcohol and strokes at Science Daily

The blink of an eye may predict risk for alcohol problems

The startle response, often recorded as an eye-blink reflex, is a defensive measure believed to reflect emotional processing. Patients with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) show abnormal startle-reflex responses to alcohol-related stimuli. This study examined startle-reflex responses to various visual stimuli among heavy drinkers, and assessed whether certain patterns predict the development of AUDs four years later.

Researchers measured the startle-reflex responses of 287 men recruited from public health-care centers in Spain: 239 non-dependent, heavy-drinking men and 48 healthy men who comprised the control group. All participants were exposed to four types of pictures: alcohol-related, aversive, appetitive, and neutral. The participants were subsequently examined four years later to determine the predictive value of their startle response on drinking status.

Full story of eye-blink reflex and AUDs at Science Daily

Alcohol marketing in popular movies doubles in past two decades

Alcohol brand placements in popular movies of all ratings nearly doubled during the past two decades, new research shows, but particularly in child-rated movies. Researchers presenting these findings at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco found the alcohol brands on the movie set are often those young people report drinking the most.

“Children and young people look to movie stars as role models.” said James D. Sargent, MD, FAAP, a professor in the departments of Pediatrics and Community & Family Medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and an author of the study. “For alcohol companies, when a favorite star uses a certain brand of alcohol, that brand gets linked to all the characteristics young admirers see in their movie idol. That’s why it’s no surprise that the brands commonly shown in movies are the most highly advertised brands, and the same brands underage drinkers tend to drink,” he said.

Full story of alcohol marketing in movies at Science Daily

Bullying’s lasting impact

A new study led by the University of Delaware found that kids who are bullied in fifth grade often suffer from depression and begin using alcohol and other substances a few years after the incidents.

“Students who experienced more frequent peer victimization in fifth grade were more likely to have greater symptoms of depression in seventh grade, and a greater likelihood of using alcohol, marijuana or tobacco in tenth grade,” said the study’s leader, Valerie Earnshaw, a social psychologist and assistant professor in UD’s College of Education and Human Development.

The study involved researchers from universities and hospitals in six states, who analyzed data collected between 2004 and 2011 from 4,297 students on their journey from fifth through tenth grade. The findings were published online in the medical journal Pediatrics.

Full story of bullying’s lasting impact at Science Daily

Think you can handle your alcohol? Study may urge some drinkers to think again

Heavy drinkers develop behavioral tolerance to alcohol over time on some fine motor tasks, but not on more complex tasks, according to a study led by a Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System researcher. While heavy drinkers showed less impairment than light drinkers on a rote fine motor test over time, they did not perform better on a test involving more short-term memory, motor speed, and more complex cognitive processing.

The study offers new insight into the changes and problems that accompany excessive drinking. As the researchers explain, “The results have implications for our understanding of alcohol-induced impairments across neurobehavioral processes in heavy drinkers and their ongoing risks for alcohol-related consequences over time.”

Lead researcher Dr. Ty Brumback adds, “The most important thing about the study is that despite heavy drinkers’ extensive experience with alcohol, increased speed of metabolism, and lower self-perceived impairment, we show that on a more demanding task they are just as impaired as light drinkers.”

Full story of behavioral alcohol tolerance at Science Daily