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Neuroimaging studies of vulnerability to Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) have identified structural and functional variations which might reflect inheritable features in alcohol-naïve relatives of AUD individuals (FH+) compared to controls having no such family history (FH-). However, prior research did not simultaneously account for childhood maltreatment, any clinically significant disorder and maternal AUD. Therefore, we mainly aimed to investigate the brain structure and reward-related neural activations (fMRI), using whole-brain analysis in FH+ young adults with no prevalent confounders.
46 FH+ and 45 FH- male and female participants had no severe childhood maltreatment exposure, neither any psychiatric disorder or AUD, nor a prenatal exposure to maternal AUD. We used a 3 T MRI coupled with a whole brain voxel-based method to compare between groups the grey matter volumes and activations in response to big versus small wins during a Monetary Incentive Delay task. The Childhood Trauma Questionnaire score was used as confounding variable in the analyses to account for the remaining variance between groups.
Compared to FH- controls, FH+ participants had smaller grey matter volumes in the frontal and cingulate regions as well as in the bilateral nucleus accumbens and right insula. The FH+ participants’ fMRI datasets denoted a blunted activation in the middle cingulum with respect to FH- controls’ during the processing of reward magnitude, and a greater activation in the anterior cingulum in response to anticipation of a small win.
Family history of alcohol use disorder is linked to structural and functional variations including brain regions involved in reward processes.
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