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Neuroimage Clin. 2016 Nov 1;13:181-187. eCollection 2017.

Cingulate cortex functional connectivity predicts future relapse in alcohol dependent individuals.

Author information

1
Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, United States.
2
Department Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, United States.
3
Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, United States.
4
Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, United States; Department Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, United States; Department of Neurosurgery, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, United States.

Abstract

Alcohol dependence is a chronic relapsing illness. Alcohol and stress cues have consistently been shown to increase craving and relapse risk in recovering alcohol dependent (AUD) patients. However, differences in functional connectivity in response to these cues have not been studied using data-driven approaches. Here, voxel-wise connectivity is used in a whole-brain investigation of functional connectivity differences associated with alcohol and stress cues and to examine whether these differences are related to subsequent relapse. In Study 1, 45, 4- to 8-week abstinent, recovering AUD patients underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging during individualized imagery of alcohol, stress, and neutral cues. Relapse measures were collected prospectively for 90 days post-discharge from inpatient treatment. AUD patients showed blunted anterior (ACC), mid (MCC) and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), voxel-wise connectivity responses to stress compared to neutral cues and blunted PCC response to alcohol compared to neutral cues. Using Cox proportional hazard regression, weaker connectivity in ACC and MCC during neutral exposure was associated with longer time to relapse (better recovery outcome). Similarly, greater connectivity in PCC during alcohol-cue compared to stress cue was associated with longer time to relapse. In Study 2, a sub-group of 30 AUD patients were demographically-matched to 30 healthy control (HC) participants for group comparisons. AUD compared to HC participants showed reduced cingulate connectivity during alcohol and stress cues. Using novel data-driven approaches, the cingulate cortex emerged as a key region in the disruption of functional connectivity during alcohol and stress-cue processing in AUD patients and as a marker of subsequent alcohol relapse.

KEYWORDS:

Addiction; Alcohol dependence; Cingulate cortex; Cue reactivity; Functional connectivity; Relapse

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