Neural correlates of reward magnitude and delay during a probabilistic delay discounting task in alcohol use disorder

Laura E. Dennis, Milky Kohno, Holly D. McCready, Daniel L. Schwartz, Britta Schwartz, David Lahna, Bonnie J. Nagel, Suzanne H. Mitchell, William F. Hoffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Rationale: Alcohol-use disorder (AUD) is associated with the propensity to choose smaller sooner options on the delay discounting task. It is unclear, however, how inherent risk underlies delay discounting behavior. As impulsive choice is a hallmark feature in AUD, it is important to understand the neural response to reward and delay while accounting for risk in impulsive decision-making. Objective: This study examined activation associated with delay and reward magnitude, while controlling for risk in a probabilistic delay discounting task in AUD and examined if differences in activation were associated with treatment outcomes. Methods: Thirty-nine recently abstinent alcohol-dependent volunteers and 46 controls completed a probabilistic delay discounting task paired with functional magnetic resonance imaging. Alcohol use was collected using a self-report journal for 3 months following baseline scan. Results: During delay stimulus presentations, Controls exhibited greater activation compared to the Alcohol group notably in the anterior insula, middle/dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC), and inferior parietal lobule. For magnitude, the Alcohol group exhibited greater activation than Controls primarily in medial PFC, rostral ACC, left posterior parietal cortex, and right precuneus. Within the Alcohol group, alcohol craving severity negatively correlated with right lateral PFC activation during reward magnitude in individuals who completed the 3-month study without relapse, while non-completers showed the opposite relationship. Conclusions: The results of this study extend previous findings that alcohol use disorder is associated with differences in activation during an immediate or delayed choice by delineating activation associated with the parameters of impulsive choice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-278
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Alcohol
  • Craving
  • Delay discounting
  • Impulsivity
  • Probability discounting
  • Relapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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