Subjects viewed drinking-related images, then read newspaper or prayed. Study found those who recited AA prayers reported fewer alcohol cravings. MRI revealed response in brain regions that control attention and emotion.
For long-term members of AA, praying helps to reduce alcohol cravings when confronted with a triggering situation.
This is according to a new study which explored the brain physiology of recovering alcoholics who had been involved with the program for years.
Participants who recited AA prayers after viewing drinking-related images reported fewer alcohol cravings and displayed increased activity in the brain regions that control attention and emotion.
The study, conducted by researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center, is thought to be the first to explore brain physiology in AA members.
Researchers recruited 20 long-term AA members to participate in the study.
These participants, who reported no alcohol cravings in the week before testing, were then placed in an MRI scanner and shown pictures of alcoholic drinks, or of people drinking.
Each person was shown the pictures two times.
In the first round, the participants were asked to read neutral material from a newspaper following the viewing.
In the second, they recited an AA prayer which promotes abstinence from alcohol.
Across the board, the research subjects all reported some degree of craving after viewing the images.