Striatal activity and reduced white matter increase frontal activity in youths with family histories of alcohol and other substance-use disorders performing a go/no-go task

Ashley Acheson, Malle A Tagamets, Anderson Winkler, Laura M Rowland, Charles W Mathias, Susan N Wright, L Elliot Hong, Peter Kochunov, Donald M Dougherty
Brain and Behavior 2015, 5 (7): e00352

INTRODUCTION: Youths with a family history of alcohol and other drug use disorders (FH+) are at greater risk of developing substance-use disorders relative to those with no such family histories (FH-). We previously reported that FH+ youths have elevated activity in the supplementary motor area (SMA) and dorsal striatum while performing go/no-go tasks and have reduced frontal white matter integrity. A better understanding of relationships between these variables would provide insight into how frontostriatal circuitry is altered in FH+ youths, which may be an important contributor to their elevated risk.

METHODS: In this study, we used structural equation modeling (SEM) to test interactions between activity in the SMA and dorsal striatum in 72 FH+ and 32 FH- youths during go/no-go task performance and to determine whether increased activity in these regions in FH+ youths can be at least partially explained by reduced frontal white matter integrity, as indexed by anterior corona radiata fractional anisotropy and N-acetylaspartate.

RESULTS: Increased dorsal striatum activity explained most (∽75%) of the elevated SMA activity in FH+ youths, and the combined contributions of increased dorsal striatal activity, and decreased white matter integrity fully explained the elevated SMA activity.

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest the elevated frontal cortical activity in FH+ youths is driven both by their increased striatal activity via downstream projections and reduced white matter integrity in frontal cortical projections, the latter likely increasing frontal cortical activity due to increased energy demands required for action potential propagation. As part of our ongoing longitudinal studies we will examine how these frontostriatal alterations relate to risk for developing substance-use disorders.

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