Motivation and the brain drinking


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Motivation and the brain drinking

  1. 1. Running head: MOTIVATION AND THE BRAIN Motivation and the Brain: Quitting Drinking Jody Marvin PSY 355 June 18, 2012 Dr. Rockel Etienne 1
  2. 2. MOTIVATION AND THE BRAIN 2 Motivation and the Brain Neuroscience and psychology work together to determine what is motivating in the human mind and body, the why, and how behaviors occur. Motivation originates and triggers from different places, such as environmental (extrinsic) needs, psychological variables, intrinsic (internal) needs, and cognitive needs. Alcoholism is benefiting greatly from advances in scanning and imaging technology, such as positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) (Leshner 2007)). Concurrently, brain stimulation through electrodes allows the study of the brain and rewarding effects, which are different in the brain of the alcoholic (Deckers, 2010). Studying the affected brain structures, functions in addicted drinkers, and functions in abstinent drinkers gives us a biological perspective on the process to quit drinking alcohol (DiClemente, Bellino, & Neavins, 1999). Alcoholic neurodegeneration is varied, subtle, and widespread, that can be compared with other neurodegenerative diseases (Deckers, 2010). Alcoholics typically have many serious health issues because of the toll excessive drinking has taken on their bodies. A main areas that take the brunt of the effects of alcohol is the brain (Deckers, 2010). For the brain to recover from alcohol abuse, it is important to abstain from alcohol consumption and lower the brain's dependence on the substance. By abstaining from alcohol, the body will be able to begin repairing itself and improve cognition (DiClemente, Bellino, & Neavins, 1999). Pathology is a term to explain what causes the individual to behave abnormally in relationship to his or her choice to use or not use an addictive substance (Deckers, 2010). It is easy to stand back and imply that we would not have these problems if people would just say no and not use potentially addictive substances. Subsequently, Anton (2008) states, “Brains of alcohol-addicted individuals respond strongly to the rewarding/reinforcing effects of alcohol and that, similar to
  3. 3. MOTIVATION AND THE BRAIN 3 animals, there is likely to be a different chemistry in the brain in those brain areas with the prime suspect being dopamine activation,” (p. 47). The progression from casual drinking to addiction is a component of brain damage. Essential for recovery is the regrowth of the frontal cortex (DiClemente, Bellino, & Neavins, 1999). The site of executive function, goal setting, and impulse control increase retention of the treatment program while thiamine therapy restores aspects of the nervous system function helping many to regain their capacity for memory (DiClemente, Bellino, & Neavins, 1999). Within three to four weeks of abstinence, frontal blood flow begins increasing and levels off at approximately four years of abstinence. Brain shrinkage reversal and metabolic functions in the frontal lobe continues unless relapse to drinking begins and abstinence from alcohol ceases (Denison & Scott, 2007). Genetic predisposition versus the environmental controls is a constant battle for recovery. The brain of the alcoholic is more sensitive to rewarding pleasures and less aware of negative consequences (incentive sensitization theory) (Deckers, 2010). In addition, a genetic basis exists for personality traits like impulsiveness, risk-taking, and sensation seeking. Blocking alcohol from binding with the appropriate neurons is possible with an antagonist drug known as naltrexone. For example, a study by O’Mailey and coresearchers (2007) discovered that naltrexone reduces the speed of consumption, number of drinks, and the urge to drink (Deckers, 2010). Unfortunately, priming exists with the alcoholic and motivation may return with a strong craving for just a single dose of alcohol. Studies (Stewart & Eikelboom, 1984) show that only a sip of alcohol with a picture can reinstate craving and reestablish the habit of drinking (as cited in Deckers, 2010, p. 187). Stinking thinking is a term associated with alcoholism. Priming with a
  4. 4. MOTIVATION AND THE BRAIN 4 conditioned stimulus, such as a billboard with an advertisement for alcohol or walking down the beer aisle in the grocery store may trigger the disease mechanisms associated with alcoholism (Deckers, 2010). In addition, the self-medication hypothesis, discusses the use of alcohol to suppress feelings associated with stress that can cause relapse with the result of the reinforcing value of alcohol increasing (Deckers, 2010). Regarding physical withdrawal, because the alcoholic is drinking to escape or reduce negative reinforcement, “as abstinence increases there is a greater relief from negative affect – that is, a greater amount of negative reinforcement,” (Deckers, 2010, p. 153). The combined effects of intrinsic factors and extrinsic factors of motivation must be strong enough to exceed the threshold in order for behavior to occur. Unfortunately, at the point, severe brain damage is evident and addiction kicks in motivation and free will are not strong enough to overcome biology and environmental support for alcoholism (Deckers, 2010). The only fighting chance at successful permanent abstinence an addicted individual has “is to allow free-will to escape its bondage and to become fortified,” (Anton, 2008, p. 15). The motivation to change must be part of this equation. Several phases exist including thinking about abstinence, preparing for abstinence, acting on it, and maintaining abstinence (Deckers, 2010). Personal reasons and intrinsic incentives are more effective than outside motivations, such as the court systems. When your drive for successful abstinence is someone or something hopeful, you have a chance at rediscovering a healthy, self-worth, and happy lifestyle. The emotional obsession to alcohol is described as the cognitive processes that lead an alcoholic to repeat the compulsive behavior after a period of abstinence (DiClemente, Bellino, & Neavins, 1999). The moral illness is of a spiritual dimension considered self-centeredness, which can be replaced with a growing consciousness, willingness for self-sacrifice, and unselfish constructive
  5. 5. MOTIVATION AND THE BRAIN 5 actions. The Twelve Step Programs are known to create intrinsic modifications within an individual, unburdening him or her of guilt and shame, while recovering from the behavioral problems associated with alcoholism. Because many individuals enter into abstinence under pressure from outside forces, they are not ready to change their drinking patterns. According to Deci & Ryan (1985), “Generally internal motivation is associated with greater long-term change than is external motivation,” (as cited in Deckers, 2010, p. 198). Furthermore, individuals with greater internal motivation for abstinence resulted from individuals with more severe drinking problems (Deckers, 2010). Anticipated incentives provide the motivation whereas punishers provide the knowledge for what behavior to carry out. Incentives are based on outside stimuli (DiClemente, Bellino, & Neavins, 1999). Temporal motivation theory explains the usefulness of an incentive depends on the value of the expectancy and the future timetable of the expectancy. When your motivation for abstinence reflects expectancy, your chances of success diminish (Deckers, 2010). Chronic alcoholism causes damage to the frontal cortex and cerebellum, parts of the brain that play a vital role in an individual’s motor skills, memory, attention span, and language. Abstinence from alcohol allows the brain to recover from chronic alcoholism. The person’s decision-making process including the ability to make positive, moral, and intelligent decisions is in need of repair and daily maintenance to fight the genetic and environmental controls he or she will encounter throughout a lifetime.
  6. 6. MOTIVATION AND THE BRAIN 6 References Anton, R. (2008). Substance abuse is a disease of the human brain: Focus on alcohol. (Fifteenth Annual Thomas A Pitts). Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics. Winter 2010 Issue. Deckers, L. (2010). Motivation: Biological, Psychological, and Environmental. (3rd Ed.) New York, NY: Wiley & Sons. Dennis, M. & Scott, C. (2007). Managing addiction as a chronic condition. AddictionScience & Clinical Practice. Retrieved June 18, 2012, from DiClemente, C., Bellino, L., & Neavins, T. (1999). Motivation for change and alcoholism treatment. Alcohol Research & Health. 23(2) Retrieved June 18, 2012, from Leshner, A. (2007). Addiction is a brain disease. University of Texas at Dallas. Retrieved June 18, 2012, from