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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2012 Jul 1;124(1-2):142-8. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2011.12.025. Epub 2012 Jan 24.

A voxel-based morphometry study comparing problem gamblers, alcohol abusers, and healthy controls.

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Academic Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry, University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 5, 1100 DD Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are associated with smaller grey matter volumes in cortical and subcortical brain regions which are related to cognitive impairments often found in these disorders. Similar cognitive impairments have been found in patients suffering from problem gambling behaviour. However, in contrast to AUDs, gambling behaviour does not entail brain exposure to toxic agents. Although there are many clinical, neuropsychological, and neurobiological similarities between PG and substance use disorders it has not yet been established whether pathological gambling, similar to alcohol use disorders, is associated with abnormal regional grey matter volumes.


With whole-brain voxel-based morphometry we compared a group of 40 treatment seeking problem gamblers, 36 subjects with an alcohol use disorder, and 54 healthy controls to evaluate potential group differences in regional grey matter volumes, corrected for age, IQ, smoking status, and total intracranial volume (TIV).


Significantly smaller grey matter volumes in left superior frontal cortex, left precentral cortex, right insula, right putamen, left thalamus, bilateral superior parietal cortex and right supramarginal cortex were present in subjects with an alcohol use disorder compared to healthy controls and problem gamblers. No significant grey matter volume differences were present between problem gamblers and healthy controls.


In conclusion, we replicated previous findings of smaller grey matter volumes in subjects with an alcohol use disorder and found no significant morphological brain abnormalities in problem gamblers.

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