Rich Club Characteristics of Alcohol-Naïve Functional Brain Networks Predict Future Drinking Phenotypes in Rhesus Macaques

Front Behav Neurosci. 2021 Jun 2:15:673151. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2021.673151. eCollection 2021.


Purpose: A fundamental question for Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is how and when naïve brain networks are reorganized in response to alcohol consumption. The current study aimed to determine the progression of alcohol's effect on functional brain networks during transition from the naïve state to chronic consumption. Procedures: Resting-state brain networks of six female rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) monkeys were acquired using magnetoencephalography (MEG) prior to alcohol exposure and after free-access to alcohol using a well-established model of chronic heavy alcohol consumption. Functional brain network metrics were derived at each time point. Results: The average connection frequency (p < 0.024) and membership of the Rich Club (p < 0.022) changed significantly over time. Metrics describing network topology remained relatively stable from baseline to free-access drinking. The minimum degree of the Rich Club prior to alcohol exposure was significantly predictive of future free-access drinking (r = -0.88, p < 0.001). Conclusions: Results suggest naïve brain network characteristics may be used to predict future alcohol consumption, and that alcohol consumption alters functional brain networks, shifting hubs and Rich Club membership away from previous regions in a non-systematic manner. Further work to refine these relationships may lead to the identification of a high-risk drinking phenotype.

Keywords: brain function; magnetoencephalography; primate; risk factor; substance use disorder.