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Addict Biol. 2014 Sep;19(5):895-906. doi: 10.1111/adb.12046. Epub 2013 Mar 6.

Gray matter volume correlates of global positive alcohol expectancy in non-dependent adult drinkers.

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Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA; Department of Science and, Technology, Federal University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.


Alcohol use and misuse is known to involve structural brain changes. Numerous imaging studies have examined changes in gray matter (GM) volumes in dependent drinkers, but there is little information on whether non-dependent drinking is associated with structural changes and whether these changes are related to psychological factors-such as alcohol expectancy-that influence drinking behavior. We used voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to examine whether the global positive scale of alcohol expectancy, as measured by the Alcohol Expectancy Questionnaire-3, is associated with specific structural markers and whether such markers are associated with drinking behavior in 113 adult non-dependent drinkers (66 women). Alcohol expectancy is positively correlated with GM volume of left precentral gyrus (PCG) in men and women combined and bilateral superior frontal gyri (SFG) in women, and negatively correlated with GM volume of the right ventral putamen in men. Furthermore, mediation analyses showed that the GM volume of PCG mediate the correlation of alcohol expectancy and the average number of drinks consumed per occasion and monthly total number of drinks in the past year. When recent drinking was directly accounted for in multiple regressions, GM volume of bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortices correlated positively with alcohol expectancy in the combined sample. To our knowledge, these results are the first to identify the structural brain correlates of alcohol expectancy and its mediation of drinking behaviors. These findings suggest that more studies are needed to investigate increased GM volume in the frontal cortices as a neural correlate of alcohol expectancy.


Cerebral morphometry; frontal cortex; gender difference; positive alcohol expectancy; prefrontal cortex; social drinkers

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