Low-frequency connectivity with memory regions during stress and alcohol cue exposure distinguishes alcoholics from social drinkers
Elizabeth V. Goldfarb1, Dongju Seo1, R. Todd Constable1, Rajita Sinha1; 1Yale University School of Medicine
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a chronic and debilitating illness. Previous work has demonstrated that AUD patients have atypical biological responses to stress as well as alcohol-related cues. As these situations both contribute to alcohol craving and relapse, perhaps through activating memories of prior experiences of alcohol use, it is critical to understand differences in neural network responses to cue exposure among regions related to memory retrieval. Here we used a region of interest (ROI)-based approach in an ongoing study to investigate background connectivity with the hippocampus and putamen (anatomically defined) during prolonged exposure to alcohol, stress, and neutral cues. In a block design, treatment-seeking AUD patients (N = 26) and demographically-matched light drinkers (N = 26) were exposed to neutral/relaxing, stress (negative, high-arousal images from the International Affective Picture System), and alcohol images for six minutes each. As previous work has shown that low-frequency correlations in BOLD signal track affective neural states, we bandpass-filtered the timeseries (0.01 – 0.1 Hz), then averaged the filtered timeseries across voxels within each ROI. Compared to light drinkers, AUD patients had lower hippocampal-medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) connectivity during stress relative to neutral image exposure (Group x Cue: p = .017). In contrast, they showed higher right putamen-mPFC connectivity during alcohol relative to neutral cues (Group x Cue: p = .019). These results demonstrate that atypical cue responses in AUD patients include cue-specific disruption of memory-related networks. Further analyses will examine whether these connectivity findings relate to individual differences in real-world drinking behavior.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotional responding