Newswise — According to researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine, you might be. Drug-seeking behavior can be prompted or cued by certain kinds of drug-associated stimuli. Prior research shows that this behavior likely depends on interactions between the brain’s frontal activity and release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the ventral striatum (a structure deep inside the brain that is related to motivated behavior and reward). Previously, the authors of this study, using positron emission tomography (PET), found that beer flavor alone (from small, non-intoxicating amounts of beer) elicited dopamine release in beer drinkers. Here, the authors examined a subset of the previous group, using a similar design, but with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) – a technique that reveals brain activation.
Researchers asked 28 male beer drinkers (24±2 years of age, who consumed 16±10 drinks per week) from their previous study to participate in a similar fMRI design in which subjects tasted their most frequently consumed brand of beer during one scan and Gatorade during a second scan.
Both types of imaging (that reflecting dopamine release, and that showing brain activation) showed that tasting a favorite beer (compared to the Gatorade) elicited a response in the right side of the ventral striatum. Moreover, the fMRI responses in both the ventral striatum and the middle/inferior part of the frontal lobe corresponded with self-reports of wanting beer and having a desire to drink. In short, the results support the idea that the right ventral striatum may hold special importance for addiction research on craving.