Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 249–262 | Cite as

Review of Neurobiological Influences on Externalizing and Internalizing Pathways to Alcohol Use Disorder

  • Jillian E. Hardee
  • Lora M. Cope
  • Meghan E. Martz
  • Mary M. Heitzeg
Addictions (M Potenza and M Brand, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Addictions


Purpose of Review

Two developmental courses through which alcohol use disorder (AUD) may emerge include externalizing and internalizing pathways. We review recent neuroimaging studies of potential neural risk factors for AUD and link findings to potential behavioral risk factors for AUD.

Recent Findings

There is evidence that early emerging weakness in prefrontal functioning and later-emerging differences in reward system functioning contribute to an externalizing risk pathway. Stress may be an important contributor in the internalizing pathway through a blunting of reward-related activation, which may act alone or in combination with heightened emotion-related reactivity.


This review highlights areas for future work, including investigation of the relative balance between prefrontal and subcortical circuitry, attention to stages of AUD, and consideration of environmental factors such as stress and sleep. Particularly important is longitudinal work to understand the temporal ordering of associations among brain maturation, behavioral risk, and alcohol use.


Adolescence Stress Sleep Emotion Reward Inhibitory control 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jillian E. Hardee
    • 1
  • Lora M. Cope
    • 1
  • Meghan E. Martz
    • 1
  • Mary M. Heitzeg
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Addiction CenterUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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