Alcohol-associated stimuli activate the ventral striatum in abstinent alcoholics.
ABSTRACT Alcohol-associated cues may act as conditioned stimuli that activate the brain reward system and motivate alcohol intake in alcoholics. Alcohol-associated visual stimuli were presented during functional magnetic resonance imaging. An activation of the ventral putamen was observed in alcoholics but not in control subjects. Patients with a strong activation of the ventral putamen relapsed during the next three months. This observation supports the hypothesis that alcohol use affects areas involved in brain reward circuits and that their stimulus-induced activation may be associated with an increased risk for relapse.