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Alcohol Alcohol. 2008 Nov-Dec;43(6):683-91. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agn078. Epub 2008 Sep 24.

Combined neuroimaging, neurocognitive and psychiatric factors to predict alcohol consumption following treatment for alcohol dependence.

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Center for Imaging of Neurodegenerative Disease (114M), San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center, and Department of Radiology, University of California, 4150 Clement St., San Francisco CA 94121, USA.



Resumption of hazardous drinking after treatment is common in alcohol use disorders (AUD). This study examined the ability of multimodality magnetic resonance, neurocognitive, psychiatric and demographic, to predict alcohol consumption after treatment for AUD.


Seventy treatment-seeking participants completed 1.5T magnetic resonance studies, yielding regional gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) surrogate markers of neuronal integrity (N-acetylaspartate: NAA) and cell membrane turnover/synthesis (choline: Cho), assessment of major psychiatric disorders and comprehensive neurocognitive assessment after approximately 1 month of abstinence. Participants were followed up 6-12 months after treatment and classified as Abstainers (no alcohol consumption; n=26) and Resumers (any alcohol consumption; n=44). Abstainers and Resumers were contrasted on various outcome measures, and those that significantly differed between groups were entered as factors in a logistical regression model to predict drinking status at follow-up.


The following variables were independent predictors of resumption of drinking: temporal GM NAA, frontal WM NAA, frontal GM Cho, processing speed and comorbid unipolar mood disorder. With each standard deviation unit decrease in temporal GM NAA, frontal WM NAA, frontal GM Cho and processing speed, the odds of resumption of drinking were increased 3.1, 3.3, 6.4 and 14.2 times, respectively. Diagnosis of a unipolar mood disorder was associated with 14.5-fold increased odds of resumed drinking.


The findings suggest that Resumers, relative to Abstainers, demonstrated greater abnormalities in anterior frontal-subcortical circuits involved in mood and behavioral regulation, and development and maintenance of alcohol use disorders, The magnetic resonance-derived variables used in this study may provide additional information regarding the prediction and neurobiological correlates of resumption of hazardous drinking.

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