Jodi Gilman1, Vijay Ramchandani1, Tess Crouss1, Daniel Hommer1
1Laboratory of Clinical and Translational Studies, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, MD , USA
Tolerance to a drug can be defined as diminished effect with continued use. This study characterizes the BOLD response to alcohol administration in social drinkers (SDs) and heavy drinkers (HDs). We infused both groups with ethanol or placebo while they underwent fMRI scans and viewed facial images. HDs reported less intoxication than SDs, and also demonstrated lower activity in the nucleus accumbens. While alcohol attenuated amygdala reactivity to fearful faces in the SDs, it did not do so in the HDs. This study suggests that at equivalent blood alcohol concentrations, HDs experience reduced subjective and neural effects of intoxication.