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Minerva Psychiatry 2023 March;64(1):72-9

DOI: 10.23736/S2724-6612.22.02392-2


language: English

Binge drinking and inhibitory control: a mini-review of fMRI studies

Maria Gloria ROSSETTI 1 , Chiara LONGO 2, 3, Cinzia PERLINI 4, Marcella BELLANI 5

1 Department of Neurosciences and Mental Health, Foundation IRCCS Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Milan, Italy; 2 Department of Psychology, University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy; 3 Department of Neurology, Santa Chiara Hospital, Azienda Provinciale per i Servizi Sanitari (APSS), Trento, Italy; 4 Section of Clinical Psychology, Department of Neurosciences, Biomedicine and Movement Sciences, University of Verona, Verona, Italy; 5 Section of Psychiatry, Department of Neurosciences, Biomedicine and Movement Sciences, University of Verona, Verona, Italy

INTRODUCTION: Binge drinking (BD) refers to the intake of a high level of alcohol in a limited amount of time followed by a period of reduction or absence of alcohol consumption. Given the increase of BD during adolescence, understanding the potentially dangerous effects of consuming large amounts of alcohol on neural circuitry and cognitive status has public health and social importance. From a cognitive point of view, excessive alcohol intake at a young age can affect executive functions and, in particular, inhibitory control capacity. This, in turn, further reduces the ability to inhibit seeking and consuming alcohol at risky levels, up to the establishment of alcohol use disorders (AUD). Therefore, in this review, we describe current evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies that examined functional circuits associated with inhibitory control in binge drinkers.
EVIDENCE ACQUISITION: The literature search retrieved 43 articles. After titles and abstracts screening, 30 records were excluded as they did not meet the inclusion criteria. Ten additional records were excluded after full-text review, while three studies were identified and include in this systematic mini-review.
EVIDENCE ACQUISITION: Preliminary fMRI findings show increased activations in binge versus light drinkers during inhibitory control tasks (especially during incongruent conditions) in frontoparietal areas.
CONCLUSIONS: In line with the continuum hypothesis, the results suggest that binge drinkers and individuals with AUD share functional brain alterations in regions ascribed to inhibitory control processes, reinforcing the hypothesis that BD and AUD may be considered two successive stages of the same phenomenon. Nontheless, longitudinal studies, in larger and better-characterized samples of binge and light drinkers, are needed to disentangle the role of inhibitory control processes in the development and maintenance of BD patterns.

KEY WORDS: Binge drinking; Alcoholism; Magnetic resonance imaging; Executive function

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