Description: Alcohol is the most used psychoactive substance worldwide. Although its negative effects are widely acknowledged, alcohol use is socially accepted across many cultures, even during adolescence. Prior research revealed that regions involved in reward processing and incentive motivation, such as the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), play an important role in the positive valuation of alcohol and the development of alcohol use disorder. Here we tested whether NAcc resting-state functional connectivity is associated with previous drinking behavior in young adults, and whether it can predict alcohol consumption during a one-year follow (FU) up period. 184 healthy 18 y/o male adults underwent resting-state fMRI to examine functional connectivity (FC) of the NAcc. Furthermore, a lifetime drinking score and a one year follow up drinking score were calculated to test whether NAcc FC is correlated with lifetime drinking behavior and whether it can predict future drinking. Reduced left NAcc connectivity with the bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) was associated with higher lifetime alcohol consumption. In addition, weaker connectivity between the left NAcc and dlPFC was associated with higher alcohol consumption during the one-year FU period. Our results are in line with previous studies, reporting altered NAcc connectivity with prefrontal regions in teens with familial risk for AUD, and in AUD itself. This underscores the relevance of Nacc connectivity to the field of alcohol research, not only suggesting a neural mechanism of drinking behavior, but also offering a potential marker for future alcohol (ab)use.
Related article: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.euroneuro.2019.10.008
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