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Monday, December 10, 2012

Neural Evidence for Emotional Involvement in Pathological Alcohol Craving

Reducing craving is a key to success in the treatment of alcohol dependence. The emotion circuit may be involved in pathological craving for alcohol. In this study, we investigated neural correlates of emotional involvement in craving in alcohol dependence.                    
The study included 17 detoxified alcoholic patients and 25 social drinkers. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine brain activation (blood oxygen level-dependent signals) while participants reported craving and emotion in response to visually presented, alcohol-related stimuli and emotional stimuli.
In the craving-rating paradigm, negative emotional stimuli as well as alcohol cues activated craving-related brain regions in alcoholic patients. Activations of the inferior parietal lobule and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex by negative emotional stimuli were negatively correlated with craving; meanwhile limbic activation was positively correlated with craving. For the emotion paradigm, greater limbic activation was evident by alcohol-related stimuli in the alcohol-dependent group.
Our findings constitute neural evidence for emotional involvement in pathological craving for alcohol, underscoring the importance of emotion management in abstinent alcoholic patients for relapse prevention.         
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