Although previous research in alcohol dependent populations identified alterations within local structures of the addiction 'reward' circuitry, there is limited research into global features of this network, especially in early recovery. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is capable of non-invasively perturbing the brain network while electroencephalography (EEG) measures the network response. The current study is the first to apply a TMS inhibitory paradigm while utilising network science (graph theory) to quantify network anomalies associated with alcohol dependence. Eleven individuals with alcohol-dependence (ALD) in early recovery and 16 healthy controls (HC) were administered 75 single pulses and 75 paired-pulses (inhibitory paradigm) to both the left and right prefrontal cortex (PFC). For each participant, Pearson cross-correlation was applied to the EEG data and correlation matrices constructed. Global network measures (mean degree, clustering coefficient, local efficiency and global efficiency) were extracted for comparison between groups. Following administration of the inhibitory paired-pulse TMS to the left PFC, the ALD group exhibited altered mean degree, clustering coefficient, local efficiency and global efficiency compared to HC. Decreases in local efficiency increased the prediction of being in the ALD group, while all network metrics (following paired-pulse left TMS) were able to adequately discriminate between the groups. In the ALD group, reduced mean degree and global clustering was associated with increased severity of past alcohol use. Our study provides preliminary evidence of altered network topology in patients with alcohol dependence in early recovery. Network anomalies were predictive of high alcohol use and correlated with clinical features of alcohol dependence. Further research using this novel brain mapping technique may identify useful network biomarkers of alcohol dependence and recovery.
Keywords: alcohol dependence; brain stimulation; electroencephalography; global connectivity; long-interval cortical inhibition; network analysis; transcranial magnetic stimulation.
© 2022 The Authors. Addiction Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Society for the Study of Addiction.