Although altered function in neural reward circuitry is widely proposed in models of addiction, more recent conceptual views have emphasized the role of disrupted response in prefrontal regions. Changes in regions such as the orbitofrontal cortex, medial prefrontal cortex, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex are postulated to contribute to the compulsivity, impulsivity, and altered executive function that are central to addiction. In addition, few studies have examined function in these regions during young adulthood, when exposure is less chronic than in typical samples of alcohol-dependent adults. To address these issues, we examined neural response and functional connectivity during monetary reward in 24 adults with alcohol dependence and 24 psychiatrically healthy adults. Adults with alcohol dependence exhibited less response to the receipt of monetary reward in a set of prefrontal regions including the medial prefrontal cortex, lateral orbitofrontal cortex, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Adults with alcohol dependence also exhibited greater negative correlation between function in each of these regions and that in the nucleus accumbens. Within the alcohol-dependent group, those with family history of alcohol dependence exhibited lower mPFC response, and those with more frequent drinking exhibited greater negative functional connectivity between the mPFC and the nucleus accumbens. These findings indicate that alcohol dependence is associated with less engagement of prefrontal cortical regions, suggesting weak or disrupted regulation of ventral striatal response. This pattern of prefrontal response and frontostriatal connectivity has consequences for the behavior patterns typical of addiction. Furthermore, brain-behavior findings indicate that the potential mechanisms of disruption in frontostriatal circuitry in alcohol dependence include family liability to alcohol use problems and more frequent use of alcohol. In all, these findings build on the extant literature on reward-circuit function in addiction and suggest mechanisms for disrupted function in alcohol dependence. © 2014 Forbes et al.
Forbes, E. E., Rodriguez, E. E., Musselman, S., & Narendran, R. (2014). Prefrontal response and frontostriatal functional connectivity to monetary reward in abstinent alcohol-dependent young adults. PLoS ONE, 9(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0094640