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The inability to inhibit certain behaviors is a key feature of impulsivity, which is often present in people with a substance use disorder. However, the findings on impulsivity in people with alcohol dependence (AD) are inconsistent, possibly because of the frequent co-occurrence of depression/anxiety (D/A) and its influence on impulsivity. In the current study, we aimed to distinguish response inhibition impairments in AD from possible response inhibition effects associated with D/A.
AD patients (n = 31) with high D/A co-morbidity were compared to patients with D/A only (n = 18) and healthy controls (HCs; n = 16) using the Stop Signal Task (SST) during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Correlation analyses were performed between activated brain areas, behavioral data and addiction and D/A characteristics.
The three groups did not differ on response inhibition performance. However, AD severity, but not D/A severity, was positively associated with decreased response inhibition. During the SST, AD patients showed hyperactivity in the putamen and thalamus compared with D/A patients and HCs. Thalamus activation was negatively associated with AD duration. In addition, AD patients showed hypoactivity in the supplementary motor area (SMA) compared with HCs. SMA activity within HCs was negatively correlated with depressive symptom severity.
In general, AD patients were not more impulsive than D/A patients or HCs but they did reveal inhibition impairments with increasing AD severity. A shift from cortical to subcortical engagement in AD patients during response inhibition may represent an alternative strategy, which decreased with longer drinking history, suggesting the presence of an AD-specific endophenotype.
A family history (FH) of alcohol dependence (AD) not only increases the risk for AD, but is also associated with an increased risk for mood and anxiety disorders. However, it is unknown how a FH of AD affects neural substrates in patients with mood and anxiety disorders. In this study we examined the effects of an alcoholic FH on cognitive and emotional functions in these patients using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
In a sample of non-alcoholic patients with depressive and/or anxiety disorders from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA) neuroimaging study, patients with a first-degree FH of AD (FH + ; n = 31) were compared with patients without a FH (FH–; n = 77) on performance and brain activation during visuospatial planning and emotional word encoding. Results were compared with those of healthy controls (HCs) without a FH of AD (n = 31).
FH+ patients performed slower during planning with increasing task load, coupled with stronger blood oxygen level-dependent responses in dorsal prefrontal areas compared with FH− patients and HCs. FH was not associated with performance differences during word encoding, but right insula activation during positive word encoding was present in FH+ patients, comparable with HCs, but absent in FH− patients.
This study demonstrates subtle impairments during planning in FH+ compared with FH− patients and HCs, whereas activation during mood-incongruent stimuli in FH+ patients was similar to HCs but not FH− patients, suggesting that the presence of a FH of AD is a useful marker for the neurophysiological profile in mood/anxiety disorders and possible predictor for treatment success.
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