Neuroplasticity comes slowly –

Sept. 2, 2020 – The more recently they’d had their last drink, the greater the disruption in activity between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and striatum, a brain network associated with decision-making.

The more severe the disruption to this network, the more likely it was that study participants would resume heavy drinking and put their treatment and recovery at risk, according to the study published online Aug. 28 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The good news is that the severity of disruption between these brain regions diminished the longer that study participants abstained from alcohol, the researchers found.

The study shows that imaging studies can help identify patients at greatest risk for relapse and highlights how crucial extensive treatment is for people in their early days of sobriety, Sinha noted.

“When people are struggling, it is not enough for them to say, ‘OK, I didn’t drink today, so I’m good now,’” Sinha said in a university news release. “It doesn’t work that way.”

The findings also suggest it may be possible to develop medications to help people with the most severe brain disruptions during their early days of alcohol treatment.

The researchers said they are investigating whether high blood pressure medications can help lower these brain disruptions and improve patients’ chances of long-term abstinence.