U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Structural brain differences in alcohol-dependent individuals withand without comorbid substance dependence
Date of this Version
Drug and Alcohol Dependence 144 (2014) 170–177
Background: Over 50% of individuals with alcohol use disorders (AUD) also use other substances; brain structural abnormalities observed in alcohol dependent individuals may not be entirely related to alcohol consumption. This MRI study assessed differences in brain regional tissue volumes between short-term abstinent alcohol dependent individuals without (ALC) and with current substance use dependence (polysubstance users, PSU).
Methods: Nineteen, one-month-abstinent PSU and 40 ALC as well as 27 light-drinkers (LD) were studied on a 1.5 T MR system. Whole brain T1-weighted images were segmented automatically into regional gray matter (GM), white matter (WM), and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) volumes. MANOVA assessed group differences of intracranial volume-normalized tissue volumes of the frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal lobes and regional subcortical GM volumes. The volumetric measures were correlated with neurocognitive measures to assess their functional relevance.
Results: Despite similar lifetime drinking and smoking histories, PSU had significantly larger normalized WM volumes than ALC in all lobes. PSU also had larger frontal and parietal WM volumes than LD, but smaller temporal GM volumes and smaller lenticular and thalamic nuclei than LD. ALC had smaller frontal,parietal, and temporal GM, thalamic GM and cerebellar volumes than LD. ALC had more sulcal CSF volumes than both PSU and LD.
Conclusion: One-month-abstinent ALC and PSU exhibited different patterns of gross brain structural abnormalities. The larger lobar WM volumes in PSU in the absence of widespread GM volume loss contrast with widespread GM atrophy in ALC. These structural differences may demand different treatment approaches to mitigate specific functionally relevant brain abnormalities.
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