Alcohol Binge Drinking: Negative and Positive Valence System Abnormalities

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
192 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Each year, 3 million deaths occur owing 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: We used a Research Domain Criteria approach to test allostasis theory predictions of blunted positive valence system (PVS) and abnormally increased negative valence system (NVS) responses in 57 binge alcohol drinking subjects and healthy control subjects who completed an instrumental task during functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Results: As hypothesized, 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 with control subjects. 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
Pages (from-to)126-134
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Issue number1
Early online date16 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Allostasis
  • Amygdala-hippocampal complex
  • Binge drinking
  • RDoC
  • Reward and loss events
  • Striatum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Biological Psychiatry


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