fMRI Differences Between Subjects with Low and High Responses to Alcohol During a Stop Signal Task

Authors

  • Marc A. Schuckit,

    1. From the Department of Psychiatry (MAS, ST, SCM, MPP, NJT, TLS, RST, SH, AS), University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.
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  • Susan Tapert,

    1. From the Department of Psychiatry (MAS, ST, SCM, MPP, NJT, TLS, RST, SH, AS), University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.
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  • Scott C. Matthews,

    1. From the Department of Psychiatry (MAS, ST, SCM, MPP, NJT, TLS, RST, SH, AS), University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.
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  • Martin P. Paulus,

    1. From the Department of Psychiatry (MAS, ST, SCM, MPP, NJT, TLS, RST, SH, AS), University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.
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  • Neil J. Tolentino,

    1. From the Department of Psychiatry (MAS, ST, SCM, MPP, NJT, TLS, RST, SH, AS), University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.
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  • Tom L. Smith,

    1. From the Department of Psychiatry (MAS, ST, SCM, MPP, NJT, TLS, RST, SH, AS), University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.
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  • Ryan S. Trim,

    1. From the Department of Psychiatry (MAS, ST, SCM, MPP, NJT, TLS, RST, SH, AS), University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.
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  • Shana Hall,

    1. From the Department of Psychiatry (MAS, ST, SCM, MPP, NJT, TLS, RST, SH, AS), University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.
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  • Alan Simmons

    1. From the Department of Psychiatry (MAS, ST, SCM, MPP, NJT, TLS, RST, SH, AS), University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.
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Errata

This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Erratum Volume 41, Issue 4, 870, Article first published online: 14 February 2012

Reprint requests: Marc A. Schuckit, MD, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, 8950 Villa La Jolla Drive, Suite B-218, La Jolla, CA 92037; Tel.: 858-822-0880; Fax: 858-822-1002; E-mail: mschuckit@ucsd.edu

Abstract

Background:  A low level of response (i.e., a low LR) to alcohol is a genetically influenced phenotype that predicts later alcoholism. While the low LR reflects, at least in part, a low brain response to alcohol, the physiological underpinnings of the low LR have only recently been addressed.

Methods:  Forty-nine drinking but not yet alcoholic matched pairs of 18- to 25-year-old subjects (N = 98; 53% women) with low and high LRs as established in separate alcohol challenges were evaluated in 2 event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) sessions (placebo and approximately 0.7 ml/kg of alcohol) while performing a validated stop signal task. The high and low LR groups had identical blood alcohol levels during the alcohol session.

Results:  Significant high versus low LR group and LR group × condition effects were observed in blood oxygen level–dependent (BOLD) signal during error and inhibitory processing, despite similar LR group performance on the task. In most clusters with significant (corrected p < 0.05, clusters > 1,344 μl) LR group × alcohol/placebo condition interactions, the low LR group demonstrated relatively less, whereas the high LR group demonstrated more, error and inhibition-related activation after alcohol compared with placebo.

Conclusions:  This is one of the first fMRI studies to demonstrate significant differences between healthy groups with different risks of a future life-threatening disorder. The results may suggest a brain mechanism that contributes to how a low LR might enhance the risk of future heavy drinking and alcohol dependence.

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