Background: Differences in regional brain volumes as a function of family history (FH) of alcohol use disorder (AUD) have been reported, and it has been suggested that these differences might index genetic risk for AUD. However, results have been inconsistent. The aims of the current study were (i) to provide an updated descriptive review of the existing literature and (ii) to examine the association of FH with indices of subcortical volumes and cortical thickness in a sample of youth recruited based on FH status. Methods: To address aim 1, a literature search located 15 published studies comprising 1,735 participants. Studies were characterized according to population, analytic methods, regions of interest, and primary findings. To address the second aim, we examined volumetric and cortical thickness in a sample of 69 youth (mean age = 19.71 years, SD = 0.79) recruited based on FH status and matched on drinking variables. Associations of sex and alcohol use with volumetric outcomes were also examined. Results: Our descriptive review revealed an inconsistent pattern of results with respect to the presence, direction, and regional specificity of volumetric differences across FH groups. The most consistent finding, significantly smaller amygdala volumes in FH+ participants, was not replicated in all studies. In the current sample of youth, measures of subcortical volumes and cortical thickness did not significantly differ as a function of FH, sex, or their interaction. Conclusions: Evidence for FH group differences in regional brain volumes is inconsistent, and the current study failed to detect any group differences. Further research is needed to confirm the reproducibility of FH group differences and implications for AUD risk.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Psychiatry and Mental health