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Eur Psychiatry. 2002 Sep;17(5):287-91.

Development of alcohol-associated cues and cue-induced brain activation in alcoholics.

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Department of Psychiatry of the Charité, Humboldt-University of Berlin, Schumannstr. 20/21, 10117, Berlin, Germany.


The objective of this study was to develop new standardized alcohol-associated cues and assess their effects on brain activation with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Pictures of alcoholic and neutral beverages and affectively neutral pictures were presented to 44 abstinent alcoholics and 37 age-matched healthy control subjects. We assessed the skin conductance response, and the elicited arousal and valence. Alcoholics and control subjects did not differ in arousal, valence or skin conductance response evoked by alcohol-associated and affectively neutral stimuli, while nonalcoholic beverages were rated as more unpleasant and arousing by alcoholics compared with control subjects. In the fMRI pilot study, alcohol and abstract pictures were presented to six abstinent alcoholics and induced a significant activation of brain areas associated with visual emotional processes such as the fusiform gyrus, parts of the brain reward system (basal ganglia and orbitofrontal gyrus) and further brain regions in the frontal and parietal cortices associated with the attention network. These observations suggest that standardized pictures of alcoholic beverages can be used to assess brain circuits involved in the processing and evaluation of alcohol cues.

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