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Subjective responses to alcohol in the lab predict neural responses to alcohol cues.

  • Author(s): Courtney, Kelly E
  • Ray, Lara A
  • et al.

OBJECTIVE:Subjective responses to alcohol represent a biologically based, genetically moderated, and clinically informative marker of alcoholism risk; however, the physiology underlying this phenotype remains unclear. This study tested whether subjective responses during alcohol administration predict neural responses to alcohol cues in the scanner and whether these neural responses differ between OPRM1 genotypes. METHOD:Twenty alcohol-dependent individuals were recruited (10 G-allele carriers; 6 women; Mage = 29.4) for a within-subjects alcohol administration in the laboratory and a functional magnetic resonance imaging session consisting of an alcohol taste cues task. Laboratory assessments of alcohol high, liking, craving, and positive and negative reinforcement during alcohol administration were entered as predictors of neural response to the presentation of alcohol cues versus water cues in the scanner and further tested for OPRM1 genotype moderation (whole-brain cluster-corrected at Z > 1.96, p < .05). RESULTS:Alcohol craving during alcohol administration predicted less neural activity, whereas alcohol reinforcement predicted greater neural activity to alcohol cues versus water cues in regions including the precuneus, posterior cingulate gyrus, and lingual gyrus. Alcohol high predicted greater neural activity to alcohol cues in regions including the precuneus and anterior cingulate cortex. OPRM1 genotype was found to moderate these relationships. No results were observed for alcohol liking. CONCLUSIONS:This study provides initial evidence that subjective responses to alcohol, namely craving, high, and the reinforcing properties of alcohol, predict neural markers of alcohol cue reactivity. These results support the validity of laboratory and neuroimaging measures of subjective responses to alcohol and offer an integration of these methods in a sample of alcohol-dependent individuals.

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