Craving versus control: Negative urgency and neural correlates of alcohol cue reactivity

David S. Chester, Donald R. Lynam, Richard Milich, C. Nathan DeWall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background Alcohol abuse is a common and costly practice. Individuals high in negative urgency, the tendency to act rashly when experiencing negative emotions, are at particular risk for abusing alcohol. Alcohol abuse among individuals high in negative urgency may be due to (a) increased activity in the brain's striatum, (b) decreased activity in brain regions associated with self-control, or (c) a combination of the two. Methods Thirty eight non-alcohol-dependent participants completed a measure of negative urgency and then underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while passively viewing pleasant and alcohol images. Results Alcohol images (as compared to pleasant images) were associated with activation in the caudate nucleus, a brain region associated with linking reward to external stimuli. Negative urgency (above and beyond other facets of impulsivity) correlated positively with this caudate activation in response to alcohol images. Alcohol images and negative urgency were unassociated with activity in the lateral prefrontal cortex, a self-regulatory brain region. Conclusions These findings provide initial support that the alcohol abuse observed among individuals high in negative urgency may be due, in part, to heightened reactivity in the striatum to alcohol. Investigating such neural contributors to self-regulation failure is crucial to reducing substance abuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S25-S28
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Authors


  • Alcohol
  • Caudate nucleus
  • Negative urgency
  • Self-regulation
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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