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Neurobiol Stress. 2017 May 31;7:74-79. doi: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2017.05.004. eCollection 2017 Dec.

Blunted amygdala functional connectivity during a stress task in alcohol dependent individuals: A pilot study.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2441 E. Hartford Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53211, USA.
2
Sierra Pacific Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center, VA, Palo Alto, USA.
3
Health Care System and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, 3801 Miranda Ave, Palo Alto, CA 93403, USA.
4
Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, Health Sciences, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0603, USA.
5
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Cincinnati, PO Box 670559, Cincinnati, OH, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Scant research has been conducted on neural mechanisms underlying stress processing in individuals with alcohol dependence (AD). We examined neural substrates of stress in AD individuals compared with controls using an fMRI task previously shown to induce stress, assessing amygdala functional connectivity to medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC).

MATERIALS AND METHODS:

For this novel pilot study, 10 abstinent AD individuals and 11 controls completed a modified Trier stress task while undergoing fMRI acquisition. The amygdala was used as a seed region for whole-brain seed-based functional connectivity analysis.

RESULTS:

After controlling for family-wise error (p = 0.05), there was significantly decreased left and right amygdala connectivity with frontal (specifically mPFC), temporal, parietal, and cerebellar regions. Subjective stress, but not craving, increased from pre-to post-task.

CONCLUSIONS:

This study demonstrated decreased connectivity between the amygdala and regions important for stress and emotional processing in long-term abstinent individuals with AD. These results suggest aberrant stress processing in individuals with AD even after lengthy periods of abstinence.

KEYWORDS:

Alcohol dependence; Amygdala; Functional connectivity; Stress task; fMRI

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