Neural Link Between Resiliency and Alcohol, Drug Use Identified

Coupling strength between subthalamic nucleus, median cingulate cortex differs with resiliency

THURSDAY, May 31 (HealthDay News) -- For young adults, the coupling strength between the subthalamic nucleus (STN) and median cingulate cortex may be involved in the association between resiliency and alcohol/drug use, according to a study published online May 15 in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Barbara J. Weiland, Ph.D., from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues studied n-back task results from 67 young adults (aged 18 to 22 years) undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. Psychophysiological interaction analysis was used to assess functional connectivity between task-related regions. In early teen years, resiliency was measured and correlated to early adulthood measures of drinking/drug use, task activation, and connectivity.

The researchers found that higher resiliency was associated with lower levels of substance use, fewer alcohol problems, and superior working memory performance. In whole-brain analysis, during the n-back task, there was a negative correlation between resiliency and activation of the STN and pallidum. There was a difference in coupling strength between STN and median cingulate cortex, a region of reduced activation during working memory, seen between the high- and low-resiliency quartile groups (17 participants in each). Compared with the low-resiliency group, the high-resiliency group exhibited later onset of drinking, fewer alcohol problems, less illicit drug use, and less likelihood of smoking cigarettes.

"This protective factor may relate to executive functioning as supported by the finding of a neural link shared between resiliency and working memory in basal ganglia structures," the authors write. "The STN, a key basal ganglia structure, may adaptively link flexible impulse control with cognitive processing, potentially modulating substance use outcomes."

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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