Objective: Craving for alcohol is probably involved in acquisition and maintenance of alcohol dependence to a substantial degree. However, the brain substrates and mechanisms that underlie alcohol craving await more detailed elucidation.
Method: Positron emission tomography was used to map regional cerebral blood flow (CBF) in 21 detoxified patients with alcohol dependence during exposure to alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Results: During the alcohol condition compared with the control condition, significantly increased CBF was found in the ventral putamen. Additionally, activated areas included insula, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and cerebellum. Cerebral blood flow increase in these regions was related to self-reports of craving assessed in the alcoholic patients.
Conclusions: In this investigation, cue-induced alcohol craving was associated with activation of brain regions particularly involved in brain reward mechanisms, memory and attentional processes. These results are consistent with studies on craving for other addictive substances and may offer strategies for more elaborate studies on the neurobiology of addiction.