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Peer influences figure prominently in young adult binge drinking. Women have trended to show a level of alcohol use on par with men during the last decades. It would be of interest to investigate the neural processes of social cognition that may underlie binge drinking and the potential sex differences. Here, we examined the data of the Human Connectome Project where we identified a total of 175 binge drinkers (125 men) and 285 non-binge drinkers (97 men) performing a social cognition task during brain imaging. We analyzed the imaging data with published routines and evaluated the results at a corrected threshold. Both male and female binge relative to non-binge drinkers showed higher perceived friendship. Binge relative to non-binge drinkers demonstrated diminished activations in the anterior medial orbitofrontal cortex (amOFC) during perception of social vs. random interaction, with a more prominent effect size in women. Further, whole-brain regression identified activity of the right posterior insula (rPI) in negative correlation with perceived friendship score in non-binge drinking women. Post-hoc analyses showed significant correlation of rPI activity with perceived friendship, amOFC activity, and a summary measure of alcohol use severity identified by principal component analysis, across all subjects. Mediation and path analysis demonstrated a significant model: amOFC activity → rPI activity → perceived friendship → severity of alcohol use. These findings support peer influences on binge drinking and suggest neural correlates that may relate altered social cognitive processing to alcohol misuse in young adults. Copyright © 2021 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Guangfei Li, Yu Chen, Thang M Le, Simon Zhornitsky, Wuyi Wang, Isha Dhingra, Sheng Zhang, Xiaoying Tang, Chiang-Shan R Li. Perceived friendship and binge drinking in young adults: A study of the Human Connectome Project data. Drug and alcohol dependence. 2021 Apr 24;224:108731

PMID: 33915512

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