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The Reward Positivity (RewP) is a positive deflection in the EEG following reward receipt. Recent evidence suggests that the RewP is modulated by both reward probability as well as affective valuation (“liking”). Here we examined the sensitivity of the RewP when paired with positive affective vs. alcohol images in individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD). We recruited 55 participants (AUD =28, Control= 27). Participants completed a reinforcement learning task (green or red screen feedback) with concurrent pictures (puppy or alcohol images). Although there was no group differences in puppy image ratings, there was a significant difference in alcohol image ratings (F (1,50.8) = 32.22, p<.001). There were no differences in RewP between groups, even as a function of alcohol imagery. Yet, across all participants, there was a positive correlation between image “liking” rating difference (puppy-alcohol) and RewP amplitude difference (again, puppy-alcohol; ρ= 0.25, p=0.05), replicating prior findings of an affective influence on the size of the RewP. Within AUD group, there was significant positive correlation between drinking severity (AUDIT score) and RewP amplitude difference (alcohol>puppy; ρ=0.343, p=.037), indicating an inter-individual influence of drinking habits on affect-specific RewP amplitudes. These findings suggest a domain-specific enhancement of reward responsiveness in heavy drinkers.


Poster presented at the Brain & Behavioral Health Research Day 2022



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