October 24, 2020

Functional Brain Networks and Alcohol Consumption: From the Naive State to Chronic Heavy Drinking

A fundamental question for alcohol use disorder is how naive brain networks are reorganized in response to the consumption of alcohol. The current study aimed to determine the progression of alcohol’s effect on functional brain networks during the transition from naive, to early, to chronic consumption. Resting-state brain networks of six female monkeys were acquired using magnetoencephalography prior to alcohol exposure, after early exposure, and after free-access to alcohol using a well-established model of chronic heavy alcohol use. Functional brain network metrics were derived at each time point. Assortativity, average connection frequency, and number of gamma connections changed significantly over time. All metrics remained relatively stable from naive to early drinking, and displayed significant changes following increased quantity of alcohol consumption. The assortativity coefficient was significantly less negative (p = .043), connection frequency increased (p = .03), and gamma connections increased (p = .034). Further, brain regions considered hubs (p = .037) and members of the Rich Club (p = .012) became less common across animals following the introduction of alcohol. The minimum degree of the Rich Club prior to alcohol exposure was significantly predictive of future free-access drinking (r = -.88, p < .001). Results suggest naive brain network characteristics may be used to predict future alcohol consumption, and that alcohol consumption alters the topology of functional brain networks, shifting hubs and Rich Club membership away from previous regions in a non-systematic manner. Further work to refine these relationships may lead to the identification of a high-risk AUD phenotype.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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