Brain research could hold key to alcohol problems

Posted on: Thursday, 24 March 2011

Melbourne researchers are using an innovative technique that combines brain stimulation and the measure of brain activity to investigate difficulties associated with giving up alcohol.

Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, in collaboration with Eastern Health's Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre, has developed a new non-invasive technique which it hopes will directly measure activity in the frontal brain regions.

Frontal brain regions are important for making decisions and for stopping behaviours that cause us harm.

Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre Director, Professor Dan Lubman, said it was important to learn as much as possible so effective therapies for the treatment of alcohol dependence could be developed.

“Alcohol is a significant health issue in our community and a better understanding of the brain will lead to improved screening and treatment programs,” Prof Lubman said.

Until recently, directly investigating activity in the frontal brain region and the relationship between the brain and a person’s ability to stop drinking has been extremely difficult.

However, Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre has developed a new technique which allows researchers to directly stimulate and measure frontal brain activity in patients with alcohol problems.

Chief investigator at Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, Jodie Feil, said the combined brain stimulation technique would provide a unique insight into the brain regions associated with controlling alcohol consumption.

"Findings from this study could lead to the development of more effective treatments for alcohol dependence,” Ms Feil said.

Researchers are currently recruiting volunteers aged between 18 and 60 years who have recently successfully completed an alcohol dependence detoxificiation program to take part in the study.

For more information about the research, email info@turningpoint.org.au