Brain Network Underlying Executive Functions in Gambling and Alcohol Use Disorders: An Activation Likelihood Estimation Meta-Analysis of fMRI Studies

Brain Sci. 2020 Jun 7;10(6):353. doi: 10.3390/brainsci10060353.


Background: Neuroimaging and neuropsychological studies have suggested that common features characterize both Gambling Disorder (GD) and Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), but these conditions have rarely been compared.

Methods: We provide evidence for the similarities and differences between GD and AUD in neural correlates of executive functions by performing an activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis of 34 functional magnetic resonance imaging studies involving executive function processes in individuals diagnosed with GD and AUD and healthy controls (HC).

Results: GD showed greater bilateral clusters of activation compared with HC, mainly located in the head and body of the caudate, right middle frontal gyrus, right putamen, and hypothalamus. Differently, AUD showed enhanced activation compared with HC in the right lentiform nucleus, right middle frontal gyrus, and the precuneus; it also showed clusters of deactivation in the bilateral middle frontal gyrus, left middle cingulate cortex, and inferior portion of the left putamen.

Conclusions: Going beyond the limitations of a single study approach, these findings provide evidence, for the first time, that both disorders are associated with specific neural alterations in the neural network for executive functions.

Keywords: ALE meta-analysis; MRI; alcohol abuse; decision-making; functional magnetic resonance imaging; pathological gambling.

Publication types

  • Review