Family history of alcoholism interacts with alcohol to affect brain regions involved in behavioral inhibition

David A. Kareken, Mario Dzemidzic, Leah Wetherill, William Eiler, Brandon G. Oberlin, Jaroslaw Harezlak, Yang Wang, Sean J. O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Rationale: Impulsive behavior is associated with both alcohol use disorders and a family history of alcoholism (FHA). One operational definition of impulsive behavior is the stop-signal task (SST) which measures the time needed to stop a ballistic hand movement. Objective: Employ functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study right frontal responses to stop signals in heavy drinking subjects with and without FHA, and as a function of alcohol exposure. Methods: Twenty-two family history-positive (FHP; age = 22.7 years, SD = 1.9) and 18 family history-negative (FHN; age = 23.7, SD = 1.8) subjects performed the SST in fMRI in two randomized visits: once during intravenous infusion of alcohol, clamped at a steady-state breath alcohol (BrAC) concentration of 60 mg/dL, and once during infusion of placebo saline. An independent reference group (n = 13, age = 23.7, SD = 1.8) was used to identify a priori right prefrontal regions activated by successful inhibition (Inh) trials, relative to "Go" trials that carried no need for inhibition [Inh > Go]. Results: FHA interacted with alcohol exposure in right prefrontal cortex, where alcohol reduced [Inh > Go] activation in FHN subjects but not in FHP subjects. Within this right frontal cortical region, stop-signal reaction time also correlated negatively with [Inh > Go] activation, suggesting that the [Inh > Go] activity was related to inhibitory behavior. Conclusions: The results are consistent with the low level of response theory (Schuckit, J Stud Alcohol 55:149-158, 1980; Quinn and Fromme, Alcohol Clin Exp Res 35:1759-1770, 2011), with FHP being less sensitive to alcohol's effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-345
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1 2013


  • Alcoholism
  • Family history
  • FMRI
  • Frontal lobes
  • Impulsivity
  • Inhibition
  • Stop signal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology

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