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Neuroimage. 2007 Feb 1;34(3):879-87. Epub 2006 Nov 28.

Deformation-based morphometry of brain changes in alcohol dependence and abstinence.

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  • 1Center for the Imaging of Neurodegenerative Disease, San Francisco VA Medical Center, Department of Radiology, University of California, San Francisco, NCIRE, CA 94121, USA. valerie.cardenas-nicolson@ucsf.edu

Abstract

Brain atrophy associated with chronic alcohol consumption is partially reversible after cessation of drinking. Recovering alcoholics (RA, 45+/-8 years) were studied with MRI within 1 week of entering treatment, with follow-up at 8 months. Light drinkers (LD) were studied with MRI twice 1 year apart. For each participant, deformation maps of baseline structure and longitudinal size changes between baseline and follow-up scans were created using nonlinear registration techniques. ANCOVA assessed group differences and regression methods examined relationships between deformation maps and measures of drinking severity or baseline atrophy. At baseline, RA showed significant atrophy in the frontal and temporal lobes. Longitudinally, abstainers recovered tissue volumes significantly faster than LD in parietal and frontal lobes. When comparing abstainers to relapsers, additional regions with significantly greater recovery in abstainers were temporal lobes, thalamus, brainstem, cerebellum, corpus callosum, anterior cingulate, insula, and subcortical white matter. Gray matter volume at baseline predicted volume recovery during abstinence better than white matter. Drinking severity was not significantly related to brain structural changes assessed with this method. Longitudinally, deformation-based morphometry confirmed tissue recovery in RAs who maintain long-term sobriety. Abstinence-associated tissue volume gains are significant in focal parts of the fronto-ponto-cerebellar circuit that is adversely affected by heavy drinking.

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