Allostasis Theory Prediction on Alcohol Drinkers

Three million deaths occur worldwide each year due to alcohol misuse; however, mechanistic understanding remains poor. Preclinical studies on animals have highlighted abnormalities in specific brain systems with these forming the basis of ‘allostasis’ theory, although few have tested predictions in humans using neuroimaging. Allostasis theory describes what happens when people develop alcohol or drug problems which can ultimately result in dependence. However, the theory has been primarily developed from extensive pre-clinical work on animals.

A Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) approach was used to test allostasis theory predictions of blunted positive valence system (PVS) and abnormally increased negative valence system (NVS) responses in fifty-seven binge alcohol drinking subjects and healthy controls who completed an instrumental task during fMRI. Results As hypothesised, binge alcohol drinkers showed abnormally increased activity in NVS-linked regions such as the hippocampus and dorsal cingulate, and abnormally blunted activity in PVS-linked regions such as the striatum, compared to controls. Higher measures of problematic alcohol use were associated with more abnormal brain activity, only for binge drinkers who had been most recently drinking.

In conclusion, these results support allostasis theory predictions of abnormally increased NVS and blunted PVS responses in binge alcohol drinkers. Further similar translational neuroimaging studies are indicated, particularly focusing on the NVS.

Congratulations to Dr Serenella Tolomeo, Scientist from Social & Cognitive Computing at A*STAR's Institute of High Performance Computing for her achievements in the work titled - Blunted Within-System and Increased Between-System Brain Abnormalities in Binge Alcohol Drinkers. She was being selected as a 2021 NIDA Registration Bursary Recipient by the ISAM2021 Global Congress Registration Bursaries and received the Outstanding Poster Award presented at the Annual Symposium of the Society for Neuroscience, Singapore Chapter. 

Watch her presentation recording.

Outstanding Poster Award - Neuroscience Singapore meeting

International Society of Addiction Medicine (ISAM) 2021 Global Congress is the premier international event for healthcare professionals involved in the world of addiction. The congress explores global solutions to international problems in the field of addiction medicine, from policy and prevention to groundbreaking innovations in treatment and care. Attendees will get unrivaled access to the field’s most influential leaders, gain practical insights from top practitioners, and expand their ability to advocate for those living with addictive disorders in their own communities.