This study was performed when LHE, TD, AJF and ACE were still at the Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, University of Wuerzburg. The present address is the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Tuebingen.
Prefrontal correlates of approach preferences for alcohol stimuli in alcohol dependence
Article first published online: 12 NOV 2012
© 2012 The Authors, Addiction Biology © 2012 Society for the Study of Addiction
Volume 19, Issue 3, pages 497–508, May 2014
How to Cite
Ernst, L. H., Plichta, M. M., Dresler, T., Zesewitz, A. K., Tupak, S. V., Haeussinger, F. B., Fischer, M., Polak, T., Fallgatter, A. J. and Ehlis, A.-C. (2014), Prefrontal correlates of approach preferences for alcohol stimuli in alcohol dependence. Addiction Biology, 19: 497–508. doi: 10.1111/adb.12005
- Issue published online: 17 APR 2014
- Article first published online: 12 NOV 2012
- Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. Grant Number: SFB-TRR 58-C4
- alcohol dependence;
- approach bias;
- functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS);
- prefrontal cortex (PFC)
An approach bias for alcohol stimuli (i.e. faster approach than avoidance reactions) might facilitate relapses in alcohol dependence. Neurobiological models suggest hypersensitivity in the reward system [inter alia nucleus accumbens and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC)] to cause pathologically enhanced approach impulses towards alcohol stimuli. At the same time, in alcohol dependence, these structures are only insufficiently controlled by a hypoactive dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). The present study investigated the cortical aspects of this model with functional near-infrared spectroscopy in 21 alcohol-dependent in-patients and 21 healthy controls (HC; comparable in age, gender and education) during performance of the Approach-Avoidance Task (AAT) for the first time. Complementing previous findings, in reaction times (RTs), patients showed stronger approach preferences for alcohol than non-alcohol stimuli. For non-alcohol stimuli, patients even displayed avoidance preferences. The reversed pattern was found in HC. Group differences in activity of the OFC were identical to those in RTs, revealing patients to assign higher subjective value to approaching alcohol stimuli. In both groups, regulatory activity in the right DLPFC was stronger during avoiding than approaching alcohol pictures. Probable awareness of the behavioural hypotheses due to explicit task instructions and patients' deficient prefrontal function might account for this equally aligned pattern. Results are discussed with regard to recent findings revealing a reduced behavioural approach bias and risk for relapse by applying a retraining version of the AAT. Functional measurements might serve as a method for monitoring the corresponding neurobiological changes and—possibly—predicting the success of such a training.