The Effect of Past Abuse on PFC Recovery from an Alcohol Use Disorder

Rebecca Lucero Jones, Mazie Zielinski, Spencer Bradshaw, Cydney Schleiden, Sterling T. Shumway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of trauma on Alcohol Use Disorders (AUD) and recovery, specifically through examining associations between past trauma and prefrontal cortex activation in response to alcohol cues. This study utilized functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIR) to evaluate activation of the PFC in individuals in recovery for an AUD when presented with positive, negative, neutral, and alcohol related images. Results showed that a history of trauma and length of recovery are associated with PFC responses to affective images for individuals in recovery. These findings suggest that the PFC of individuals in recovery from AUD who have been physically abused exhibit a more hyperactive response to surroundings, but this hyperactivity may decrease over time as recovery length increases. Those in recovery from AUD who do not report a history of physical abuse demonstrate reduced PFC activation in response to affective images, however, this activity increases as recovery progresses. Additionally, the results showed a significant but opposite pattern with respect to reporting a history of emotional abuse. Authors recommend that clinicians working with those seeking recovery from AUD provide psychotherapy that addresses the complex relationship between PFC functioning, trauma, and AUD and provides an individualized recovery process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-345
Number of pages21
JournalAlcoholism Treatment Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2 2020


  • Alcohol use disorder
  • emotional abuse
  • physical abuse
  • prefrontal cortex
  • recovery
  • substance use disorder
  • trauma


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