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Cerebral dysfunction is a common feature of both chronic alcohol abusers and binge drinkers. Here, we aimed to study whether, at equated behavioral performance levels, binge drinkers exhibited increased neural activity while performing simple cognitive tasks. Thirty-two participants (16 binge drinkers and 16 matched controls) were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing an n-back working memory task. In the control zero-back (N0) condition, subjects were required to press a button with the right hand when the number "2" was displayed. In the two-back (N2) condition, subjects had to press a button when the displayed number was identical to the number shown two trials before. fMRI analyses revealed higher bilateral activity in the pre-supplementary motor area in binge drinkers than matched controls, even though behavioral performances were similar. Moreover, binge drinkers showed specific positive correlations between the number of alcohol doses consumed per occasion and higher activity in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, as well as between the number of drinking occasions per week and higher activity in cerebellum, thalamus and insula while performing the N2 memory task. Binge alcohol consumption leads to possible compensatory cerebral changes in binge drinkers that facilitate normal behavioral performance. These changes in cerebral responses may be considered as vulnerability factors for developing adult substance use disorders.


Salvatore Campanella, Philippe Peigneux, Géraldine Petit, Frédéric Lallemand, Mélanie Saeremans, Xavier Noël, Thierry Metens, Mustapha Nouali, Xavier De Tiège, Philippe De Witte, Roberta Ward, Paul Verbanck. Increased cortical activity in binge drinkers during working memory task: a preliminary assessment through a functional magnetic resonance imaging study. PloS one. 2013;8(4):e62260

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PMID: 23638017

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