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Psychiatry Res. 2013 Oct 30;214(1):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2013.06.001. Epub 2013 Aug 2.

Cortical and subcortical volumes in adolescents with alcohol dependence but without substance or psychiatric comorbidities.

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Neurobehavioral Research Inc., Honolulu, HI, United States.


Most prior studies of the effects of excessive alcohol intake on the adolescent brain examined alcohol-use-dependent samples with comorbid psychiatric and substance use disorders. In the Cape Town region, we identified a sizeable cohort of adolescents with alcohol use disorders (AUD) without externalizing or other psychiatric disorders. We examined brain morphology in 64 such adolescents compared to age- and gender-matched healthy controls. Magnetic resonance imaging data were analyzed using FSL's FIRST software for subcortical volumes, and cortical gray matter (GM) was analyzed using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and regions of interest (ROI) analysis. AUD boys had smaller thalamic and putamen volumes compared to non-drinking boys, while AUD girls had larger thalamic and putamen volumes compared to non-drinking girls. VBM revealed a large region of decreased GM density in AUDs compared to controls located in the left lateral frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes, extending medially deep into the parietal lobe. Smaller GM volume in this region was also present when examined using ROI analysis. Our lack of findings in other brain regions, particularly the hippocampus, suggests that reports of smaller brain volumes in adolescent AUDs in the literature are a consequence of psychiatric and substance abuse comorbidities.


Magnetic resonance imaging; South Africa; Voxel-based morphometry

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