Alcohol Binge Drinking: Negative and Positive Valence System Abnormalitier

Serenella Tolomeo, Jennifer A. McFarlane, Alex Baldacchino, George F. Koob, J. Douglas Steele (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Three million deaths occur each year due to alcohol misuse. Translational studies are crucial to translate preclinical findings to patients. Preclinical studies have highlighted abnormalities in specific brain systems with these forming the basis of allostasis theory. However, few studies have tested predictions in humans using neuroimaging.

Methods: Here we used a Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) approach 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.

Conclusions: 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.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Early online date16 Sep 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Sep 2020


  • allostasis
  • binge drinking
  • RDoC
  • reinforcement learning
  • striatum
  • amygdala-hippocampal complex

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