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Alcohol Craving and Severity are Associated with Dorsal Anterior Cingulate Choline Levels in Individuals with an Alcohol Use Disorder.

AIMS: Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) has been used to probe inflammation in the brain. While altered MRS metabolite levels have previously been found in individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD), the relationship between potential metabolite markers of inflammation and the clinical correlates of AUD remains understudied. Therefore, this exploratory study sought to elucidate the clinical significance of inflammation in AUD by examining relationships between metabolites, AUD severity, alcohol consumption, and craving in individuals with AUD.

METHODS: Data for this secondary analysis are derived from a two-week clinical trial of ibudilast to treat AUD. Forty-three non-treatment-seeking individuals with an AUD (26M/17F) completed an MRS scan and alcohol-related questionnaires. MRS was performed using a multi-voxel array placed above the corpus callosum, extending from the pregnenual anterior cingulate to premotor cortex. The dorsal anterior cingulate was selected as the volume of interest. Metabolite levels of choline-compounds (Cho), myo-inositol (mI), and creatine+phosphocreatine (Cr) were quantified. Separate hierarchical regression models were used to evaluate the independent effects of metabolite levels on alcohol craving, alcohol problem severity, and alcohol consumption.

RESULTS: Dorsal anterior cingulate Cho predicted alcohol craving and alcohol problem severity over and above demographics, medication, and alcohol consumption measures. mI and Cr did not predict alcohol craving or alcohol problem severity. Metabolite markers were not predictive of alcohol consumption.

CONCLUSIONS: This preliminary study indicates that dACC Cho is sensitive to clinical characteristics of AUD. This is a further step in advancing neurometabolites, particularly Cho, as potential biomarkers and treatment targets for AUD.

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