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Approved Research

Using explainable machine learning analysis to explore gender differences in psychosocial and neurobiological markers of Alcohol Use Disorder.

Principal Investigator: Dr Anna Zilverstand
Approved Research ID: 82136
Approval date: June 21st 2022

Lay summary

Aim: The aims of our study are to (1) understand how the psychological mechanisms underlying Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) may differ between men and women and (2) how the quality of social relationships contributes to AUD differently in men versus women. 

Scientific Rationale:  Existing research suggests that Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) presents differently in men and women. For example, women tend to progress to severe use faster than men, and they are more likely to relapse in times of stress.  AUD has been linked to impairments in three psychological mechanisms: reward sensitivity (a person's reaction to reward), executive function (the ability to control one's own behavior and make decisions), and negative emotionality (the tendency to experience negative emotions like sadness). We currently do not, however, know if and how these mechanisms differ between men versus women with AUD. Furthermore, initial data suggests that social support (the quality of a person's social relationships) may play a key role in the development of AUD in women, but not men. However, further research about the impact of social support on AUD in men and women is needed. Thus, the current study will investigate (1) if reward sensitivity, executive function, and negative emotionality lead to AUD differently in men and women, and (2) whether the role of social support differs between men and women.

Project Duration: We plan to conduct this study over a period of 3 years.

Public Health Impact: Alcohol use disorder (AUD) inflicts a huge societal burden and is one of the leading causes of preventable death, with an estimated lifetime prevalence of about 30%. Prevalence rates AUD are rising among women; however, research done on gender differences in disease progression in adults remains extremely limited. To address this, we will investigate gender differences in the causes of AUD, including neurobehavioral and social factors. Understanding the complex causes of AUD in women will aid in developing comprehensive, individualized, gender-responsive treatment plans for patients.