Functional neuroimaging of alcoholism vulnerability: glutamate, reward, and Pavlovian-to-Instrumental Transfer


Principal Investigator:  Dr. Godfrey Pearlson. This project will clarify the neurobiology of various forms of impulsivity and disordered reward mechanisms seen in individuals at risk for alcoholism. In particular it will use pharmacologic probes of the NMDA system to explore NMDA/DA interactions in the ventral striatum in a series of fMRI tasks related to reward to assess the relevant circuitry related to the above questions. 


The project explores the effects of memantine in a double-blind, randomized, counterbalanced manner on alcoholism risk- relevant tasks. More specifically, Project 3 examines 4 functional MRI tasks related to different aspects of reward and/or impulsivity-related behavior in different contexts, compares the underlying neural circuitry across tasks, and uses a pharmacologic probe of the glutamatergic system to examine NMDA/DA interactions. The combined measures provide the opportunity to advance our understanding of specific aspects of brain function related to familial alcoholism vulnerability in an already well-characterized population as some members evolve into alcohol abuse. In addition, as well as conventional within-task analyses, functional network connectivity and allied approaches will be used to examine brain networks across the above tasks.

Participation Opportunities

For questions about participation in this study please contact:

Rachel Kelly
200 Retreat Ave
Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center
IOL/ Hartford Hospital
Hartford, CT 06106
Phone: 860-545-7179
Fax: 860-545-7797

Relevant Publications

  1. Andrews MM, Meda SA, Thomas AD, Potenza MN, Krystal JH, Worhunsky P, Stevens MC, O'Malley S, Book GA, Reynolds B, Pearlson GD. (2011). Individuals family history positive for alcoholism show functional magnetic resonance imaging differences in reward sensitivity that are related to impulsivity factors. Biol Psychiatry. 69(7):675-83. PMID: 21126735
  2. Meda SA, Stevens MC, Potenza MN, Pittman B, Gueorguieva R, Andrews MM, Thomas AD, Muska C, Hylton JL, Pearlson GD. (2009). Investigating the behavioral and self-report constructs of impulsivity domains using principal component analysis. Behav Pharmacol. 20(5-6):390-9. PMID: 19724194