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Front Psychiatry. 2013 Oct 21;4:135. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00135. eCollection 2013.

Association of frontal gray matter volume and cerebral perfusion in heroin addiction: a multimodal neuroimaging study.

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Department of Psychiatry (UPK), University of Basel , Basel , Switzerland.


Structure and function are closely related in the healthy human brain. In patients with chronic heroin exposure, brain imaging studies have identified long-lasting changes in gray matter (GM) volume. More recently, we showed that acute application of heroin in dependent patients results in hypoperfusion of fronto-temporal areas compared with the placebo condition. However, the relationship between structural and cerebral blood flow (CBF) changes in heroin addiction has not yet been investigated. Moreover, it is not known whether there is any interaction between the chronic structural changes and the short and long-term effects on perfusion caused by heroin. Using a double-blind, within-subject design, heroin or placebo (saline) was administered to 14 heroin-dependent patients from a stable heroin-assisted treatment program, in order to observe acute short-term effects. Arterial spin labeling (ASL) was used to calculate perfusion quantification maps in both treatment conditions, while Voxel-Based Morphometry (VBM) was conducted to calculate regional GM density. VBM and ASL data were used to calculate homologous correlation fields by Biological Parametric Mapping (BPM) and a whole-brain Pearson r correlation. We correlated each perfusion condition (heroin and placebo) separately with a VBM sample that was identical for the two treatment conditions. It was assumed that heroin-associated perfusion is manifested in short-term effects, while placebo-associated perfusion is more related to long-term effects. In order to restrict our analyses to fronto-temporal regions, we used an explicit mask for our analyses. Correlation analyses revealed a significant positive correlation in frontal areas between GM and both perfusion conditions (heroin and placebo). Heroin-associated perfusion was also negatively correlated with GM in the inferior temporal gyrus on both hemispheres. These findings indicate that, in heroin-dependent patients, low GM volume is positively associated with low perfusion within frontal regions.


arterial spin labeling; biological parametric mapping; heroin addiction; voxel-based morphometry

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