A growing number of imaging studies suggest that alcohol cues, mainly visual, elicit activation in mesocorticolimbic structures. Such findings are consistent with the growing recognition that these structures play an important role in the attribution of incentive salience and the pathophysiology of addiction. The present study investigated whether the presentation of alcohol taste cues can activate brain regions putatively involved in the acquisition and expression of incentive salience. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we recorded BOLD activity while delivering alcoholic tastes to 37 heavy drinking but otherwise healthy volunteers. The results yielded a pattern of BOLD activity in mesocorticolimbic structures (ie prefrontal cortex, striatum, ventral tegmental area/substantia nigra) relative to an appetitive control. Further analyses suggested strong connectivity between these structures during cue-elicited urge and demonstrated significant positive correlations with a measure of alcohol use problems (ie the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test). Thus, repeated exposure to the taste alcohol in the scanner elicits activation in mesocorticolimbic structures, and this activation is related to measures of urge and severity of alcohol problems.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Psychiatry and Mental health