Alcohol intoxication effects on visual perception: An fMRI study



We examined the effects of two doses of alcohol (EtOH) on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) activation during a visual perception task. The Motor-Free Visual Perception Test–Revised (MVPT-R) provides measures of overall visual perceptual processing ability. It incorporates different cognitive elements including visual discrimination, spatial relationships, and mental rotation. We used the MVPT-R to study brain activation patterns in healthy controls (1) sober, and (2) at two doses of alcohol intoxication with event-related fMRI. The fMRI data were analyzed using a general linear model approach based upon a model of the time course and a hemodynamic response estimate. Additionally, a correlation analysis was performed to examine dose-dependent amplitude changes. With regard to alcohol-free task-related brain activation, we replicate our previous finding in which SPM group analysis revealed robust activation in visual and visual association areas, frontal eye field (FEF)/dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and the supplemental motor area (SMA). Consistent with a previous study of EtOH and visual stimulation, EtOH resulted in a dose-dependent decrease in activation amplitude over much of the visual perception network and in a decrease in the maximum contrast-to-noise ratio (in the lingual gyrus). Despite only modest behavior changes (in the expected direction), significant dose-dependent activation increases were observed in insula, DLPFC, and precentral regions, whereas dose-dependent activation decreases were observed in anterior and posterior cingulate, precuneus, and middle frontal areas. Some areas (FEF/DLPFC/SMA) became more diffusely activated (i.e., increased in spatial extent) at the higher dose. Alcohol, thus, appears to have both global and local effects upon the neural correlates of the MVPT-R task, some of which are dose dependent. Hum. Brain Mapping 21:15–26, 2004. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.