May 18, 2021

Negative Urgency as a Risk Factor for Hazardous Alcohol Use: Dual Influences of Cognitive Control and Reinforcement Processing

<p>Negative Urgency (NU) is a prominent risk factor for hazardous alcohol use. While research has helped elucidate how NU relates to neurobiological functioning with respect to alcohol use, no known work has contextualized such functioning within existing neurobiological theories in addiction. Therefore, we elucidated mechanisms contributing to the NU-hazardous alcohol use relationship by combining NU theories with neurobiological dual models of addiction, which posit addiction is related to cognitive control and reinforcement processing. Fifty-five undergraduates self-reported NU and hazardous alcohol use. We recorded EEG while participants performed a reinforced flanker task. We measured cognitive control using N2 activation time-locked to the incongruent flanker stimulus, and we measured reinforcement processing using the feedback-related negativity (FRN) time-locked to better-than-expected negative reinforcement feedback. We modeled hazardous drinking using hierarchical regression, with NU, N2, and FRN plus their interactions as predictors. The regression model significantly predicted hazardous alcohol use, and the three-way interaction (NU X N2 X FRN) significantly improved model fit. In the context of inefficient processing (i.e., larger N2s and FRNs), NU demonstrated a strong relationship with hazardous alcohol use. In the context of efficient processing (i.e., smaller N2s and FRNs), NU was unrelated to hazardous alcohol use. This analysis provides preliminary evidence that brain mechanisms of cognitive control and reinforcement processing influence the relationship between NU and hazardous alcohol use, and confirms a specific influence of negative reinforcement processing. Future clinical research could leverage these neurobiological moderators for substance misuse treatment.</p>
<p> bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience</p>
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