Intact Corticostriatal Control of Goal-Directed Action in Alcohol Use Disorder: A Pavlovian-to-instrumental Transfer and Outcome-Devaluation

Tim Van Timmeren, Stephanie L Quail, Bernard W Balleine, Dirk E M Geurts, Anna E Goudrian, Ruth J van Holst

Scientific Reports, 10, Article number 4949 (2020)

March 2020


Deficits in instrumental, goal-directed control, combined with the influence of drug-associated Pavlovian-conditioned stimuli, are thought to influence the development and maintenance of addiction. However, direct evidence has mainly come from animal studies. We sought to establish whether alcohol use disorder (AUD) is characterized by behavioral or neurobiological deficits in (i) the integration of Pavlovian and instrumental values and (ii) goal-directed control; and (iii) whether duration or severity of AUD is associated with such deficits. The influence of cues predicting food rewards on instrumental action was assessed in a Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer (PIT) test, measuring both specific and general PIT, and goal-directed behavior in an outcome-devaluation test. Brain activity was measured using functional MRI in 38 abstinent individuals with AUD and 22 matched healthy control individuals (HCs). We found significant specific and general PIT and outcome-devaluation effects across groups indicating goal-directed control, mediated by distinct corticostriatal signals, but no significant differences between individuals with AUD and healthy controls. Bayesian analyses provided substantial-to-strong evidence for the absence of group differences for these effects, or any relationship with duration or severity of AUD. These results suggest intact ability to integrate action-outcome associations on specific and general PIT and goal-directed learning in AUD during abstinence.