Neil J Tolentino

National University (California), San Diego, California, United States

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Publications (6)26.67 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The low level of response (LR) or sensitivity to alcohol is genetically influenced and predicts heavy drinking and alcohol problems. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies using cognitive tasks suggest that subjects with a low-LR process cognitive information differently after placebo and alcohol than those with a high LR, but no studies have evaluated whether similar LR group differences are seen during an emotional processing task. The fMRI data were gathered from 116 nonalcoholic subjects (60 women) after oral placebo or approximately .7 mL/kg of ethanol while performing a modified emotional faces processing task. These included 58 low- and high-LR pairs matched on demography and aspects of substance use. Blood alcohol levels and task performance were similar across LR groups, but low-LR subjects consumed approximately .8 drinks more/occasion. Thirteen brain regions (mostly the middle and inferior frontal gyri, cingulate, and insula) showed significant LR group or LR × placebo/alcohol condition interactions for emotional (mostly happy) faces relative to non-face trials. Low-LR subjects generally showed decreasing blood-oxygen level-dependent response contrasts across placebo to alcohol, whereas high LR showed increasing contrasts from placebo to alcohol, even after controlling for drinking quantities and alcohol-related changes in cerebral blood flow. Thus, LR group fMRI differences are as prominent during an emotional face task as during cognitive paradigms. Low-LR individuals processed both types of information in a manner that might contribute to an impaired ability to recognize modest levels of alcohol intoxication in a range of life situations.
    Biological psychiatry 05/2012; 72(10):848-55. · 8.93 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The effects of adolescent marijuana use on the developing brain remain unclear, despite its prevalence. Arterial spin labeling (ASL) is a noninvasive imaging technique that characterizes neurovascular status and cerebral blood flow (CBF), potentially revealing contributors to neuropathological alterations. No studies to date have looked at CBF in adolescent marijuana users. This study examined CBF in adolescent marijuana users and matched healthy controls at baseline and after 4 weeks of monitored abstinence. Heavy adolescent marijuana users (n = 23, >200 lifetime marijuana use days) and demographically matched controls (n = 23) with limited substance exposure underwent an ASL brain scan at an initial session and after 4 weeks of sequential urine toxicology to confirm abstinence. Marijuana users showed reduced CBF in four cortical regions including the left superior and middle temporal gyri, left insula, left and right medial frontal gyrus, and left supramarginal gyrus at baseline; users showed increased CBF in the right precuneus at baseline, as compared to controls (corrected p values < 0.05). No between group differences were found at follow-up. Marijuana use may influence CBF in otherwise healthy adolescents acutely; however, group differences were not observed after several weeks of abstinence. Neurovascular alterations may contribute to or underlie changes in brain activation, neuropsychological performance, and mood observed in young cannabis users with less than a month of abstinence.
    Psychopharmacology 03/2012; 222(4):675-84. · 4.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A low level of response (i.e., a low LR) to alcohol is a genetically influenced phenotype that predicts later alcoholism. While the low LR reflects, at least in part, a low brain response to alcohol, the physiological underpinnings of the low LR have only recently been addressed. Forty-nine drinking but not yet alcoholic matched pairs of 18- to 25-year-old subjects (N = 98; 53% women) with low and high LRs as established in separate alcohol challenges were evaluated in 2 event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) sessions (placebo and approximately 0.7 ml/kg of alcohol) while performing a validated stop signal task. The high and low LR groups had identical blood alcohol levels during the alcohol session. Significant high versus low LR group and LR group × condition effects were observed in blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal during error and inhibitory processing, despite similar LR group performance on the task. In most clusters with significant (corrected p < 0.05, clusters > 1,344 μl) LR group × alcohol/placebo condition interactions, the low LR group demonstrated relatively less, whereas the high LR group demonstrated more, error and inhibition-related activation after alcohol compared with placebo. This is one of the first fMRI studies to demonstrate significant differences between healthy groups with different risks of a future life-threatening disorder. The results may suggest a brain mechanism that contributes to how a low LR might enhance the risk of future heavy drinking and alcohol dependence.
    Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research 01/2012; 36(1):130-40. · 3.42 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Although there are multiple indications that alcohol can alter many physiological brain functions, including cerebral blood flow (CBF), studies of the latter have generally used small- or modest-sized samples. Few investigations have yet evaluated how CBF changes after alcohol relate to subsets of subjects with elevated alcoholism risks, such as those with lower levels of response (LR) to alcohol. This study used arterial spin labeling (ASL) after alcohol administration to evaluate a large sample of healthy young men and women with low and high alcohol responses, and, thus, varying risks for alcohol use disorders (AUD). Healthy young adult social drinkers with low and high LR (N=88, 50% women) matched on demography and drinking histories were imaged with whole-brain resting ASL ~1 hour after ingesting ~3 drinks of ethanol and after a placebo beverage (i.e., 178 ASL sessions). The relationships of CBF changes from placebo to alcohol for subjects with low and high LR were evaluated. CBF increased after alcohol when compared to placebo in 5 frontal brain regions. Despite identical blood alcohol concentrations, these increases with alcohol were less prominent in individuals who required more drinks to experience alcohol-related effects (i.e., had a lower LR to alcohol). The LR group differences remained significant after covarying for recent drinking quantities. The results confirm that alcohol intake is associated with acute increases in CBF, particularly in frontal regions. Less intense CBF changes were seen in subjects with a genetically influenced characteristic, a low LR to alcohol, that relates to the future risk of heavy drinking and alcohol problems.
    Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research 02/2011; 35(6):1034-40. · 3.42 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A low level of response (LR) to alcohol is an important endophenotype associated with an increased risk of alcoholism. However, little is known about how neural functioning may differ between individuals with low and high LRs to alcohol. This study examined whether LR group effects on neural activity varied as a function of acute alcohol consumption. A total of 30 matched high- and low-LR pairs (N = 60 healthy young adults) were recruited from the University of California, San Diego, and administered a structured diagnostic interview and laboratory alcohol challenge followed by two functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) sessions under placebo and alcohol conditions, in randomized order. Task performance and blood oxygen level-dependent response contrast to high relative to low working memory load in an event-related visual working memory (VWM) task were examined across 120 fMRI sessions. Both LR groups performed similarly on the VWM task across conditions. A significant LR group by condition interaction effect was observed in inferior frontal and cingulate regions, such that alcohol attenuated the LR group differences found under placebo (p < 0.05). The LR group by condition effect remained even after controlling for cerebral blood flow, age, and typical drinking quantity. Alcohol had differential effects on brain activation for low- and high-LR individuals within frontal and cingulate regions. These findings represent an additional step in the search for physiological correlates of a low LR and identify brain regions that may be associated with the low LR response.
    Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research 07/2010; 34(7):1162-70. · 3.42 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The two measures of a low level of response (LR) to alcohol, an alcohol challenge and the retrospective Self-Report of the Effects of Alcohol questionnaire (SRE), each identify individuals at high risk for heavy drinking and alcohol problems. These measures also perform similarly in identifying subjects with unique functional brain imaging characteristics. However, few data are available regarding whether alcohol challenge-based and SRE-based LRs operate similarly in structural equation models (SEMs) that search for characteristics, which help to mediate how LR impacts alcohol outcomes. Two hundred and ninety-four men from the San Diego Prospective Study were evaluated for their LR to alcohol using alcohol challenges at approximately age 20. At approximately age 35, the same subjects filled out the SRE regarding the number of drinks needed for effects 15 to 20 years earlier. The two different LR scores for these men were used in SEM analyses evaluating how LR relates to future heavy drinking and to drinking in peers (PEER), alcohol expectancies (EXPECT), and drinking to cope (COPE) as potential mediators of the LR to drinking pattern (ALCOUT) relationships. While the 2 LR measures that were determined 15 years apart related to each other at a modest level (r = 0.17, p < 0.01), the SEM results were similar regardless of the LR source. In both alcohol challenge-based and SRE-based LR models, LR related directly to ALCOUT, with partial mediation from PEER and COPE, but not through EXPECT in these 35-year-old men. Consistent with the >60% overlap in prediction of outcomes for the 2 LR measures, and with results from functional brain imaging, alcohol challenge- and SRE-based LR values operated similarly in SEM models in these men.
    Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research 03/2010; 34(5):861-8. · 3.42 Impact Factor