Some Male Alcoholics Lack Feelings

Study identifies blunted emotional response in those with antisocial disorder

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WEDNESDAY, Dec. 17, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Adult male alcoholics with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) have abnormally low emotional reactivity.

That's what a U.S. study in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research found.

Emotional reactivity refers to how people respond to pleasant and unpleasant events.

The researchers say their findings may indicate these people have dysfunction in areas of the brain that control how they relate to their environment and make adaptive decisions. This may promote development of alcoholism through maladaptive, disinhibited behavior.

"Despite their often subtle nature, emotional reactions hold a central position in determining how the brain regulates behavior," study author Robert Miranda Jr., a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism postdoctoral fellow at Brown University, says in a prepared statement.

"Through integration with cognitive processes, emotional reactions play an important role in learning and memory, evaluating variable environmental contingencies, and motivating adaptive behavior. There is considerable variability among individuals in terms of how emotionally reactive we are to different types of situations and events," Miranda says.

"These differences may indicate vulnerability to certain psychiatric conditions, such as mood and anxiety disorders and addictions. In the case of antisocial behavior and addictions, there may be diminished reactions to cues that signal aversive events, including punishment," he says.

The study included 17 men who were alcohol-dependent and had ASPD, 24 men without ASPD who were alcohol-dependent, and 21 male healthy control subjects.

All the men completed self-reported questionnaires, clinical interviews and underwent a special test that gauged their emotional states.

The emotional responses of the men with ASPD who were alcohol-dependent were blunted compared to the men in the other two groups.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about antisocial personality disorder.

SOURCE: Brown University, news release, Dec. 14, 2003


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