Not all alcoholics are the same, and a new study has shown that there are important brain differences between alcoholics who are anxiety prone compared to alcoholics who are impulsive. University of Eastern Finland researchers have found that there are various changes which occur in the brains of alcoholics that do not occur in non-alcoholics. The researchers also discovered that while the brains of all individuals addicted to alcohol share some similar characteristics there were some changes which were seen exclusively in either the anxiety prone or type I alcoholics or the impulsive or type II alcoholics. In the study the post mortem brain tissue was examined from 3 different groups: non-alcoholics, type I alcoholics, and type II alcoholics.
The brain differences between type I and type II alcoholics helped differentiate between the two types of alcoholism, but alcoholism is not quite that simple. Many individuals may engage in alcohol abuse on a regular basis or become addicted yet not fit into one of the two main categories of alcoholics. Researcher Olli Kärkkäinen, M.Sc. (Pharm), explained that “From the viewpoint of the study setting, this division was made in order to highlight the wide spectrum of people suffering from alcohol dependence. The reality, of course, is far more diverse, and not every alcoholic fits into one of these categories. These findings enhance our understanding of changes in the brain that make people prone to alcoholism and that are caused by long-term use. Such information is useful for developing new drug therapies for alcoholism, and for targeting existing treatments at patients who will benefit the most.”