Individuals with alcohol dependency (AD) often have comorbid conditions such as posttraumatic stress, anxiety, and depression. Mood issues such as anxiety and depression can increase the risk for AD, and AD can, in turn, increase a person’s vulnerability to mood issues. Family history (FH) of AD is another strong predictor of AD and has been studied at length. However, less is known about FH of AD and mood issues in people without AD.
To determine whether FH of AD increases the risk of mood issues in people without AD, and if it does, how does this FH of AD affect cognitive and emotional processes, Zsuzsika Sjoerds of the Department of Psychiatry at VU University Medical Center in the Netherlands recently led a study exploring these relationships.
For her study, Sjoerds conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging on 31 individuals with mood issues who had a FH of AD and compared them to 77 participants with mood issues and no FH of AD. She then compared the participants with mood issues to another group of 31 participants with no history of AD, FH, or mood problems. Sjoerds said, “In the present study, we investigated the effects of a FH of AD on neural correlates of cognitive functions and emotional perception in patients with mood/anxiety disorders.”
The results of this examination revealed that participants in the FH/AD group had slower performance on the cognitive task than the non-FH and control participants. She also found differences in word encoding and right insula regions of the brain.
The findings suggest that people with mood problems and FH may be susceptible to emotion regulation issues and cognitive impairments even if they do not themselves have AD. Sjoerds believes that perhaps impaired cognitive resources could make people with mood issues and FH more vulnerable to emotional stimuli and impulsivity which could lead to risk taking and ultimately, negative coping strategies such as alcohol use. Although the differences between the sample groups were subtle, Sjoerds believes that these results indicate that FH of AD could be viewed as a predictor for future anxiety or depression problems.
Sjoerds, Z., et al. (2013). Family history of alcohol dependence modulates functional neurophysiology in mood/anxiety disorders. Psychological Medicine 43.7 (2013): 1487-97. ProQuest. Web.
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