Aberrant functional brain network organization is associated with relapse during 1-year follow-up in alcohol-dependent patients

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Justin Böhmer - , Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Author)
  • Pablo Reinhardt - , Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Author)
  • Maria Garbusow - , Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Author)
  • Michael Marxen - , Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy (Author)
  • Michael N. Smolka - , Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy (Author)
  • Ulrich S. Zimmermann - , kbo-Isar-Amper-Clinics Munich (Author)
  • Andreas Heinz - , Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Author)
  • Danilo Bzdok - , McGill University, Mila - Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute (Author)
  • Eva Friedel - , Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Author)
  • Johann D. Kruschwitz - , Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Author)
  • Henrik Walter - , Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, TUD Dresden University of Technology (Author)


Alcohol dependence (AD) is a debilitating disease associated with high relapse rates even after long periods of abstinence. Thus, elucidating neurobiological substrates of relapse risk is fundamental for the development of novel targeted interventions that could promote long-lasting abstinence. In the present study, we analysed resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rsfMRI) data from a sample of recently detoxified patients with AD (n = 93) who were followed up for 12 months after rsfMRI assessment. Specifically, we employed graph theoretic analyses to compare functional brain network topology and functional connectivity between future relapsers (REL, n = 59), future abstainers (ABS, n = 28) and age- and gender-matched controls (CON, n = 83). Our results suggest increased whole-brain network segregation, decreased global network integration and overall blunted connectivity strength in REL compared with CON. Conversely, we found evidence for a comparable network architecture in ABS relative to CON. At the nodal level, REL exhibited decreased integration and decoupling between multiple brain systems compared with CON, encompassing regions associated with higher-order executive functions, sensory and reward processing. Among patients with AD, increased coupling between nodes implicated in reward valuation and salience attribution constitutes a particular risk factor for future relapse. Importantly, aberrant network organization in REL was consistently associated with shorter abstinence duration during follow-up, portending to a putative neural signature of relapse risk in AD. Future research should further evaluate the potential diagnostic value of the identified changes in network topology and functional connectivity for relapse prediction at the individual subject level.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13339
Number of pages15
JournalAddiction biology
Volume28 (2023)
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2023

External IDs

PubMed 37855075
ORCID /0000-0001-5398-5569/work/150329559
ORCID /0000-0001-8870-0041/work/150330338


Research priority areas of TU Dresden

Sustainable Development Goals


  • alcohol dependence, alcohol use disorder, alcoholism, connectomics, functional connectivity, graph theory, relapse, resting-state fMRI, Recurrence, Follow-Up Studies, Ethanol, Brain Mapping/methods, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging/methods, Alcoholism/diagnostic imaging, Brain/diagnostic imaging