The effect of alcohol consumption on anxiety and brain activity

We have long studied brain imaging signals that are correlated with the amount of anxiety our subjects report feeling on a daily basis (i.e., trait anxiety). For example, we have shown that subjects who report feeling greater trait anxiety have weaker structural connections between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. In a separate study we showed that the degree to which the prefrontal cortex communicates with the amygdala at rest is compromised in subjects who are more anxious. This new set of studies addresses the effect of alcohol consumption on the aforementioned processes. Many people both report feeling less anxious after consuming a responsible amount of alcohol, and use alcohol consumption to de-stress after a long day at work. These studies explore changes in amygdala and prefrontal activity after alcohol consumption to better clarify the nuances of these underlying processes.

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