Atypical parietal lobe activity to subliminal faces in youth with a family history of alcoholism

Jennifer Peraza, Anita Cservenka, Megan M. Herting, Bonnie J. Nagel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Adults with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) show different behavioral and neurological functioning during emotional processing tasks from healthy controls. Adults with a family history (FHP) of AUD also show different activation in limbic brain areas, such as the amygdala. However, it is unclear if this pattern exists during adolescence before any episodes of heavy alcohol use. Objectives: We hypothesized that the amygdalar response to subliminally-presented fearful faces would be reduced in FHP adolescents compared to peers who were family history negative (FHN) for AUD. Method: An adapted Masked Faces paradigm was used to examine blood oxygen level-dependent response to subliminal fearful vs. neutral faces in 14 FHP (6 females, 8 males) and 15 FHN (6 females, 9 males) youth, ages 11-15 years. Both FHP and FHN youth had no history of heavy alcohol consumption. Results: A significant difference was seen between groups in the left superior parietal lobule FHN youth showed deactivation to fearful and neutral masked faces compared to baseline, whereas FHP youth showed deactivation only to fearful masked faces. No significant differences in amygdalar activation were seen between groups. Conclusion: The left superior parietal lobule is part of the fronto-parietal network, which has been implicated in attentional control. Lack of reduced neural activity to neutral faces among FHP youth may represent differences in suppressing attention networks to less salient emotional stimuli, or perhaps, a higher threshold of saliency for emotional stimuli among at-risk youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-145
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Adolescence
  • Amygdala
  • At-risk youth
  • Brain
  • FMRI
  • Fear
  • Parietal
  • Substance use disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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