Posterior cingulate cortical response to active avoidance mediates the relationship between punishment sensitivity and problem drinking.


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Many people drink to alleviate negative affect, reflecting an avoidance strategy which can lead to alcohol misuse. Individuals with heightened sensitivity to punishment (SP) are especially susceptible to problem drinking via this maladaptive coping mechanism. As imaging studies have largely focused on sensation-seeking traits and approach behavior, the neural substrates underlying behavioral avoidance as well as their relationship with punishment sensitivity and alcohol use remain unclear. Here, we examined in humans the cerebral correlates of response inhibition to avoid a penalty in relation to both problem drinking and SP, as evaluated by the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test and the Sensitivity to Punishment and Sensitivity to Reward Questionnaire, respectively. Seventy nondependent female and male drinkers performed a reward go/no-go task with approximately two-thirds go and one-third no-go trials. Correct go and no-go responses were rewarded, and incorrect responses were punished. The results showed that SP and Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test scores were both positively correlated with brain activations during response inhibition, and these activations overlapped in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). Thus, the PCC may represent a shared neural substrate for avoidance, punishment sensitivity, and problem drinking. Mediation analyses further suggested that PCC response to avoidance completely and bidirectionally mediated the relationship between SP and hazardous alcohol use. These findings substantiated the role of the PCC in behavioral avoidance and its link to problem drinking in punishment-sensitive nondependent drinkers.
alcohol,avoidance,go/no-go,posterior cingulate cortex,problem drinking,punishment sensitivity
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