Alcoholism; brain; fMRI; language processing; lexical; semantic judgment
Neuropsychological studies have shown that alcohol dependence is associated with neurocognitive deficits in tasks requiring memory, perceptual motor skills, abstraction and problem solving, whereas language skills are relatively spared in alcoholics despite structural abnormalities in the language-related brain regions. To investigate the preserved mechanisms of language processing in alcohol-dependents, functional brain imaging was undertaken in healthy controls (𝑛=18) and alcohol-dependents (𝑛=16) while completing a lexical semantic judgment task in a 3 T MR scanner. Behavioural data indicated that alcohol-dependents took more time than controls for performing the task but there was no significant difference in their response accuracy. fMRI data analysis revealed that while performing the task, the alcoholics showed enhanced activations in left supramarginal gyrus, precuneus bilaterally, left angular gyrus, and left middle temporal gyrus as compared to control subjects. The extensive activations observed in alcoholics as compared to controls suggest that alcoholics recruit additional brain areas to meet the behavioural demands for equivalent task performance. The results are consistent with previous fMRI studies suggesting compensatory mechanisms for the execution of task for showing an equivalent performance or decreased neural efficiency of relevant brain networks. However, on direct comparison of the two groups, the results did not survive correction for multiple comparisons; therefore, the present findings need further exploration.