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Chin Med J (Engl). 2013 Feb;126(4):734-9.

Abnormal function of the posterior cingulate cortex in heroin addicted users during resting-state and drug-cue stimulation task.

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Department of Radiology, Tangdu Hospital, Fourth Military Medical University, Xi'an, Shaanxi 710038, China.



Previous animal and neuroimaging studies have demonstrated that brain function in heroin addicted users is impaired. However, the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) has not received much attention. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether chronic heroin use is associated with craving-related changes in the functional connectivity of the PCC of heroin addicted users.


Fourteen male adult chronic heroin users and fifteen age and gender-matched healthy subjects participated in the present study. The participants underwent a resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan and a cue-induced craving task fMRI scan. The activated PCC was identified in the cue-induced craving task by means of a group contrast test. Functional connectivity was analyzed based on resting-state fMRI data in order to determine the correlation between brain regions. The relationship between the connectivity of specific regions and heroin dependence was investigated.


The activation of PCC, bilateral anterior cingulate cortex, caudate, putamen, precuneus, and thalamus was significant in the heroin group compared to the healthy group in the cue-induced craving task. The detectable functional connectivity of the heroin users was stronger between the PCC and bilateral insula, bilateral dorsal striatum, right inferior parietal lobule (IPL) and right supramarginal gyrus (P < 0.001) compared to that of the healthy subjects in the resting-state data analysis. The strength of the functional connectivity, both for the PCC-insula (r = 0.60, P < 0.05) and for PCC-striatum (r = 0.58, P < 0.05), was positively correlated with the duration of heroin use.


The altered functional connectivity patterns in the PCC-insula and PCC-striatum areas may be regarded as biomarkers of brain damage severity in chronic heroin users.

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