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Learning in alcohol dependence: Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer in alcohol dependence and relapse risk

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Citation

Garbusow, M. (2017). Learning in alcohol dependence: Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer in alcohol dependence and relapse risk. PhD Thesis, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany. doi:10.18452/18810.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-1054-A
Abstract
This thesis summarizes the first Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer (PIT) studies in alcohol-dependent (AD) patients. Contextual stimuli are known to influence our behavior. Animal and human studies showed that positive Pavlovian stimuli enhance and negative Pavlovian stimuli reduce instrumental behavior (PIT effect). This mechanism might be relevant for relapse risk, as drug-associated stimuli have shown to enhance e.g. craving and functional activation in reward-related brain areas in patients compared to controls. In animal and human studies enhanced PIT effects were associated with activation particularly in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc). Moreover, control subjects with stronger PIT effects and AD patients were more impulsive on different facets of impulsivity. The PIT task consists of three main parts: i) instrumental conditioning, ii) Pavlovian conditioning, iii) transfer with Pavlovian background stimuli and instrumental task in the foreground (nondrug-related PIT: Pavlovian contextual cues; drug-related PIT: alcohol-related contextual cues). Choice impulsivity was measured by delay discounting task. We observed significantly enhanced nondrug-related PIT effects in AD patients compared to controls with a functional activation in the NAcc being predictive for relapse. Regarding drug-related PIT effects, we observed significantly reduced instrumental behavior during alcohol-related backgrounds with neural correlates in the NAcc in abstainers only. Choice impulsivity was positively related to PIT in AD patients only. Our data suggest that PIT is a mechanism contributing to relapse in AD patients with functional correlations within the NAcc, which based on our data is involved in motivation and attribution of salience. The subgroup of high impulsive patients is particularly susceptible for PIT effects, thus should be main target for intervention programs.