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When habits are dangerous: alcohol expectancies and habitual decision making predict relapse in alcohol dependence


Sebold, Miriam; Nebe, Stephan; Garbusow, Maria; Guggenmos, Matthias; Schad, Daniel J; Beck, Anne; Kuitunen-Paul, Soeren; Sommer, Christian; Frank, Robin; Neu, Peter; Zimmermann, Ulrich S; Rapp, Michael A; Smolka, Michael N; Huys, Quentin J M; Schlagenhauf, Florian; Heinz, Andreas (2017). When habits are dangerous: alcohol expectancies and habitual decision making predict relapse in alcohol dependence. Biological Psychiatry, 82(11):847-856.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Addiction is supposedly characterized by a shift from goal-directed to habitual decision making, thus facilitating automatic drug intake. The two-step task allows distinguishing between these mechanisms by computationally modeling goal-directed and habitual behavior as model-based and model-free control. In addicted patients, decision making may also strongly depend upon drug-associated expectations. Therefore, we investigated model-based versus model-free decision making and its neural correlates as well as alcohol expectancies in alcohol-dependent patients and healthy controls and assessed treatment outcome in patients.
METHODS: Ninety detoxified, medication-free, alcohol-dependent patients and 96 age- and gender-matched control subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging during the two-step task. Alcohol expectancies were measured with the Alcohol Expectancy Questionnaire. Over a follow-up period of 48 weeks, 37 patients remained abstinent and 53 patients relapsed as indicated by the Alcohol Timeline Followback method.
RESULTS: Patients who relapsed displayed reduced medial prefrontal cortex activation during model-based decision making. Furthermore, high alcohol expectancies were associated with low model-based control in relapsers, while the opposite was observed in abstainers and healthy control subjects. However, reduced model-based control per se was not associated with subsequent relapse.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that poor treatment outcome in alcohol dependence does not simply result from a shift from model-based to model-free control but is instead dependent on the interaction between high drug expectancies and low model-based decision making. Reduced model-based medial prefrontal cortex signatures in those who relapse point to a neural correlate of relapse risk. These observations suggest that therapeutic interventions should target subjective alcohol expectancies.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Addiction is supposedly characterized by a shift from goal-directed to habitual decision making, thus facilitating automatic drug intake. The two-step task allows distinguishing between these mechanisms by computationally modeling goal-directed and habitual behavior as model-based and model-free control. In addicted patients, decision making may also strongly depend upon drug-associated expectations. Therefore, we investigated model-based versus model-free decision making and its neural correlates as well as alcohol expectancies in alcohol-dependent patients and healthy controls and assessed treatment outcome in patients.
METHODS: Ninety detoxified, medication-free, alcohol-dependent patients and 96 age- and gender-matched control subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging during the two-step task. Alcohol expectancies were measured with the Alcohol Expectancy Questionnaire. Over a follow-up period of 48 weeks, 37 patients remained abstinent and 53 patients relapsed as indicated by the Alcohol Timeline Followback method.
RESULTS: Patients who relapsed displayed reduced medial prefrontal cortex activation during model-based decision making. Furthermore, high alcohol expectancies were associated with low model-based control in relapsers, while the opposite was observed in abstainers and healthy control subjects. However, reduced model-based control per se was not associated with subsequent relapse.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that poor treatment outcome in alcohol dependence does not simply result from a shift from model-based to model-free control but is instead dependent on the interaction between high drug expectancies and low model-based decision making. Reduced model-based medial prefrontal cortex signatures in those who relapse point to a neural correlate of relapse risk. These observations suggest that therapeutic interventions should target subjective alcohol expectancies.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:1 December 2017
Deposited On:12 Feb 2018 17:43
Last Modified:22 May 2018 00:00
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0006-3223
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2017.04.019
PubMed ID:28673442

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