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Long-term behavioural rewriting of maladaptive drinking memories via reconsolidation-update mechanisms

Gale, G; Walsh, K; Hennessy, VE; Stemerding, LE; Ni, KS; Thomas, E; Kamboj, SK; (2020) Long-term behavioural rewriting of maladaptive drinking memories via reconsolidation-update mechanisms. Psychological Medicine 10.1017/S0033291720001531. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Alcohol use disorders can be conceptualised as a learned pattern of maladaptive alcohol-consumption behaviours. The memories encoding these behaviours centrally contribute to long-term excessive alcohol consumption and are therefore an important therapeutic target. The transient period of memory instability sparked during memory reconsolidation offers a therapeutic window to directly rewrite these memories using targeted behavioural interventions. However, clinically-relevant demonstrations of the efficacy of this approach are few. We examined key retrieval parameters for destabilising naturalistic drinking memories and the ability of subsequent counterconditioning to effect long-term reductions in drinking. METHODS: Hazardous/harmful beer-drinking volunteers (N = 120) were factorially randomised to retrieve (RET) or not retrieve (No RET) alcohol reward memories with (PE) or without (No PE) alcohol reward prediction error. All participants subsequently underwent disgust-based counterconditioning of drinking cues. Acute responses to alcohol were assessed pre- and post-manipulation and drinking levels were assessed up to 9 months. RESULTS: Greater long-term reductions in drinking were found when counterconditioning was conducted following retrieval (with and without PE), despite a lack of short-term group differences in motivational responding to acute alcohol. Large variability in acute levels of learning during counterconditioning was noted. 'Responsiveness' to counterconditioning predicted subsequent responses to acute alcohol in RET + PE only, consistent with reconsolidation-update mechanisms. CONCLUSIONS: The longevity of behavioural interventions designed to reduce problematic drinking levels may be enhanced by leveraging reconsolidation-update mechanisms to rewrite maladaptive memory. However, inter-individual variability in levels of corrective learning is likely to determine the efficacy of reconsolidation-updating interventions and should be considered when designing and assessing interventions.

Type: Article
Title: Long-term behavioural rewriting of maladaptive drinking memories via reconsolidation-update mechanisms
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/S0033291720001531
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0033291720001531
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Addiction, alcohol, counterconditioning, experimental medicine, memory, reconsolidation
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10108904
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