Examining Prefrontal Cortex Activity and Tonic Anxiety in Alcohol Use Disorder Recovery: A Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy Study

Alison N. Wagner, Spencer D. Bradshaw, John A. Dawson, Sterling T. Shumway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Cognitive impairment, emotional reactivity, and circuitry differences have been examined for anxiety using functional magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography, and near infrared spectroscopy, with no overwhelming consensus as to the impacted brain regions. In the present study, 32 participants in recovery from alcohol use disorder were administered the Penn State Worry Questionnaire to assess tonic anxiety level and viewed aversive images during functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIR) prefrontal cortex (PFC) assessment. Negative cue examination revealed a positive association between anxiety level and left dorsolateral and dorsomedial PFC activation. Previous alcoholism research demonstrates potential confounds in these dorsolateral and dorsomedial regions, limiting generalizations to addiction-naïve populations. However, fNIR presently showed reliability as an imaging technique for assessing anxiety-related PFC activity that could augment standard diagnostic procedures for anxiety disorders. In addition, this type of research could impact understanding of comorbidity in alcohol use disorder treatment and recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-259
Number of pages17
JournalAlcoholism Treatment Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2017



  • Anxiety
  • alcohol use disorder
  • aversive cues
  • cue reactivity
  • fNIR
  • prefrontal cortex

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