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Home > The neurophysiology of implicit alcohol associations in recently abstinent patients with alcohol use disorder: an event-related potential study considering gender effects.

Tschuemperlin, Raphaela Martina and Batschelet, Hallie Margareta and Moggi, Franz and Koenig, Thomas and Roesner, Susanne and Keller, Anne and Pfeifer, Philippe and Soravia, Leila Maria and Stein, Maria (2020) The neurophysiology of implicit alcohol associations in recently abstinent patients with alcohol use disorder: an event-related potential study considering gender effects. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research .

URL: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/a...

BACKGROUND: Neuroscientific models of alcohol use disorders (AUDs) postulate an imbalance between automatic, implicit, and controlled (conscious) processes. Implicit associations towards alcohol indicate the automatically attributed appeal of alcohol-related stimuli. First, behavioral studies indicate that negative alcohol associations are less pronounced in patients compared to controls, but potential neurophysiological differences remain unexplored. This study investigates neurophysiological correlates of implicit alcohol associations in recently abstinent patients with AUD for the first time, including possible gender effects.

METHODS: A total of 62 patients (40 males and 22 females) and 21 controls performed an alcohol valence Implicit Association Test, combining alcohol-related pictures with positive (incongruent condition) or negative (congruent condition) words, while brain activity was recorded using 64-channel electroencephalography. Event-related potentials (ERPs) for alcohol-negative and alcohol-positive trials were computed. Microstate analyses investigated the effects of group (patients, controls) and condition (incongruent, congruent); furthermore, possible gender effects in patients were analyzed. Significant effects were localized with standardized low-resolution brain electromagnetic topography analysis.

RESULTS: Although no behavioral group differences were found, ERPs of patients and controls were characterized by distinct microstates from 320 ms onwards. ERPs between conditions differed only in patients with higher signal strength during incongruent trials. Around 600 ms, controls displayed higher signal strength than patients. A gender effect mirrored this pattern with enhanced signal strength in females as opposed to male patients. Around 690 ms, a group-by-valence interaction indicated enhanced signal strength in congruent compared to incongruent trials, which was more pronounced in controls.

CONCLUSIONS: For patients with AUD, the pattern, timing, and source localization of effects suggest greater effort regarding semantic and self-relevant integration around 400 ms during incongruent trials and attenuated emotional processing during the late positive potential timeframe. Interestingly, this emotional attenuation seemed reduced in female patients, thus corroborating the importance of gender-sensitive research and potential treatment of AUD.


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