Send to

Choose Destination
Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2016 Feb;40(2):319-28. doi: 10.1111/acer.12964. Epub 2016 Feb 2.

Association of Drinking Problems and Duration of Alcohol Use to Inhibitory Control in Nondependent Young Adult Social Drinkers.

Hu S1, Zhang S1, Chao HH2,3, Krystal JH1,4,5, Li CS1,4,5.

Author information

Department of Psychiatry , Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
Department of Internal Medicine , Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
Medical Service , VA Connecticut Health Care Systems, West Haven, Connecticut.
Department of Neurobiology , Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program , Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.



Deficits in inhibitory control have been widely implicated in alcohol misuse. However, the literature does not readily distinguish the effects of drinking problems and chronic alcohol use. Here, we examined how years of drinking and the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) score each influences the cerebral responses to inhibitory control in nondependent drinkers.


Fifty-seven adult drinkers and 57 age- and gender-matched nondrinkers participated in one 40-minute functional magnetic resonance imaging scan of the stop signal task. Data were preprocessed and modeled using SPM8. In a regression model, we contrasted stop and go success trials for individuals and examined activities of response inhibition each in link with the AUDIT score and years of alcohol use in group analyses. We specified the effects of duration of use by contrasting regional activations of drinkers and age-related changes in nondrinkers. In mediation analyses, we investigated how regional activities mediate the relationship between drinking problems and response inhibition.


Higher AUDIT score but not years of drinking was positively correlated with prolonged stop signal reaction time (SSRT) and diminished responses in the cerebellum, thalamus, frontal and parietal regions, independent of years of alcohol use. Further, activity of the thalamus, anterior cingulate cortex, and presupplementary motor area significantly mediates the association, bidirectionally, between the AUDIT score and SSRT. The duration of alcohol use was associated with decreased activation in the right inferior frontal gyrus extending to superior temporal gyrus, which was not observed for age-related changes in nondrinkers.


The results distinguished the association of drinking problems and years of alcohol use to inhibitory control in young adult nondependent drinkers. These new findings extend the imaging literature of alcohol misuse and may have implications for treatment to prevent the escalation from social to dependent drinking. More research is needed to confirm age-independent neural correlates of years of alcohol use.


Alcoholism; Cognitive Control; Conflict; Medial Prefrontal Cortex; Neuroimaging

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center