Insula and orbitofrontal cortical morphology in substance dependence is modulated by sex

J. Tanabe, P. York, T. Krmpotich, D. Miller, M. Dalwani, J. T. Sakai, S. K. Mikulich-Gilbertson, L. Thompson, E. Claus, M. Banich, D. C. Rojas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Frontolimbic circuits are involved in learning and decision-making processes thought to be affected in substance-dependent individuals. We investigated frontolimbic cortical morphometry in substance-dependent men and women and determined whether morphometric measurements correlated with decision-making performance. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Twenty-eight abstinent SDI (17 men/11 women) were compared with 28 controls (13 men/15 women). Cortical thicknesses and volumes were computed by using FreeSurfer. After controlling for age and intracranial volume, group and sex effects were analyzed in 3 a priori regions of interest: the insula, orbitofrontal cortex, and anterior cingulate cortex by using analysis of covariance. A secondary whole-brain analysis was conducted to verify region-of-interest results and to explore potential differences in other brain regions. RESULTS: Region-of-interest analyses revealed a main effect of group on the left insula cortex, which was thinner in SDI compared with controls (P = .02). There was a group by sex interaction on bilateral insula volume (left, P = .02; right, P = .001) and right insula cortical thickness (P = .007). Compared with same-sex controls, female SDI had smaller insulae, whereas male SDI had larger insulae. Neither ACC nor OFC significantly differed across group. Performance on a decision-making task was better in controls than SDI and correlated with OFC measurements in the controls. CONCLUSIONS: SDI and controls differed in insula morphology, and those differences were modulated by sex. No group differences in OFC were observed, but OFC measurements correlated with negative-reinforcement learning in controls. These preliminary results are consistent with a hypothesis that frontolimbic pathways may be involved in behaviors related to substance dependence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1150-1156
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Clinical Neurology


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