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.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
- Clinical Neurology