Influence of alcohol use on neural response to Go/No-Go task in college drinkers

Aral Ahmadi, Godfrey D. Pearlson, Shashwath A. Meda, Alecia Dager, Marc N. Potenza, Rivkah Rosen, Carol S. Austad, Sarah A. Raskin, Carolyn R. Fallahi, Howard Tennen, Rebecca M. Wood, Michael C. Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Impaired inhibition of prepotent motor response may represent an important risk factor for alcoholism. Alcohol use may also increase impulsive behavior, including impaired response inhibition. Little is known about the brain function underlying response inhibition among college-age drinkers based on their drinking patterns, despite college-age drinkers demonstrating high rates of alcohol-use disorders. Our major objective was to compare behavior and associated brain activity measured with fMRI during a response-inhibition task in matched heavy- and light-alcohol-drinking college students. Participants were light (N=36) and heavy (N=56) drinkers, aged 18-20 years. We characterized blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) responses, while participants performed an fMRI Go/No-Go task to quantify inhibitory behavior and brain activity. Behaviorally, group performance differences were observed for Go correct-hit and No-Go falsealarm reaction times with increased reaction times in heavy compared with light drinkers. During fMRI No-Go correct rejections, light drinkers exhibited greater BOLD response than did heavy drinkers in left supplementary motor area (SMA), bilateral parietal lobule, right hippocampus, bilateral middle frontal gyrus, left superior temporal gyrus, and cingulate gyrus/anterior cingulate cortex (Brodmann area 24). Group differences in Go/No-Go-related regional activations correlated with alcohol- and impulsivity-related measures. These findings suggest that heavy alcohol drinkers may have dysfunction in brain regions underlying attention and response inhibition, leading to diminished abilities to suppress prepotent responding. The extent to which these tendencies relate to impulsive decision-making and behaviors in real-life settings and may guide intervention development warrants additional investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2197-2208
Number of pages12
Issue number11
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescence
  • Alcohol
  • College students
  • FMRI
  • Go/No-Go task

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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