Psychiatry and Clinical Psychopharmacology
Original Article

Plasma Orexin Levels Related to Altered Brain Activity During Abstinence in Patients with Alcohol Dependence


Department of Psychiatry, Wenzhou Kangning Hospital, Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, China


Department of Psychiatric- Neuroimage Center, Radiology Center, Wenzhou Seventh People’s Hospital, Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, China


Psychiatric- Neuroimaging-Genetics-Comorbidity (PNGC) Laboratory, Tianjin Anding Hospital, Nankai University Affiliated Anding Hospital, Tianjin Mental Health Center, Tianjin, China


Department of Psychiatry, School of Mental Health, Jining Medical University, Jining, Shandong Province, China


Laboratory of Neurology-Psychiatry Biological-Neuroimaging (NPBI-Lab), Tianjin Fourth Center Hospital, Tianjin, China

Psychiatry and Clinical Psychopharmacology 2021; 31: 286-291
DOI: 10.5152/pcp.2021.20011
Read: 556 Downloads: 213 Published: 04 August 2021

Objectives: In vivo studies have correlated brain activity with alcohol-seeking behavior, while clinical studies have identified altered brain activity in patients with alcohol dependence (AD) even during abstinence. We aimed to explore the relationship between plasma orexin levels, brain activity, and alcohol-craving scores in patients with AD.

Methods: In this pilot study, we evaluated 24 male patients with AD in remission and 25 male controls. Alcohol craving was assessed using the Obsessive Compulsive Drinking Scale (OCDS). An adapted MRI technique was used to assess global functional connectivity density (gFCD), and plasma orexin concentrations were measured by radioimmunoassay. Associations were analyzed by the Pearson correlation.

Results: Plasma orexin levels in AD patients in remission were significantly higher than those in the controls. OCDS scores correlated to orexin concentrations (r = 0.47, P < .05). Compared to the controls, all AD patients demonstrated reduced gFCD, primarily in the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes, and increased gFCD in the accumbens nuclei and posterior insular cortex. Mean gFCD values in the accumbens nuclei significantly correlated to craving scores (r = 0.55, P < .05). Although assessed during abstinence, the reward circuits in AD patients exhibited increased activity. Orexin levels correlated to increased activity in the accumbens nuclei and craving scores.

Conclusions: The potential clinical utility of plasma orexin levels to assess the risk of relapse in AD
patients in treatment and prevention programs deserves further study.

Cite this article as: Pan J, Chen G, Shan P, et al. Plasma orexin levels related to altered brain activity during abstinence in patients with alcohol dependence. Psychiatr Clin Psychopharmacol. 2021;31(3):286-291.

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