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Chapter  October 1, 2014

Cognition, Emotion, and Attention

SRI Authors Tilman Schulte

Abstract

Deficits of attention, emotion, and cognition occur in individuals with alcohol abuse and addiction. This review elucidates the concepts of attention, emotion, and cognition and references research on the underlying neural networks and their compromise in alcohol use disorder. Neuroimaging research on adolescents with family history of alcoholism contributes to the understanding of pre-existing brain structural conditions and characterization of cognition and attention processes in high-risk individuals. Attention and cognition interact with other brain functions, including perceptual selection, salience, emotion, reward, and memory, through interconnected neural networks. Recent research reports compromised microstructural and functional network connectivity in alcoholism, which can have an effect on the dynamic tuning between brain systems, e.g., the frontally based executive control system, the limbic emotion system, and the midbrain-striatal reward system, thereby impeding cognitive flexibility and behavioral adaptation to changing environments. Finally, we introduce concepts of functional compensation, the capacity to generate attentional resources for performance enhancement, and brain structure recovery with abstinence. An understanding of the neural mechanisms of attention, emotion, and cognition will likely provide the basis for better treatment strategies for developing skills that enhance alcoholism therapy adherence and quality of life, and reduce the propensity for relapse.

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