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Am J Addict. 2018 Apr;27(3):217-224. doi: 10.1111/ajad.12710. Epub 2018 Mar 23.

Substance-use initiation moderates the effect of stress on white-matter microstructure in adolescents.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
2
Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
3
Department of Neuroscience, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
4
Departments of Epidemiology, Pediatrics, and Psychology, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
5
Connecticut Mental Health Center, New Haven, Connecticut.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

While childhood stress may contribute risk to substance-use initiation and differences in brain white-matter development, understanding of the potential impact of substance-use initiation on the relationship between experienced stress and white-matter microstructure remains limited.

OBJECTIVES:

This study examined whether substance-use initiation moderated the effect of perceived stress on white-matter differences using measures of primary white-matter fiber anisotropy.

METHODS:

Forty adolescents (age 14.75 ± .87 years) were assessed on the Perceived Stress Scale, and 50% were determined to have presence of substance-use initiation. White-matter microstructure was examined using primary-fiber orientations anisotropy, which may reflect white-matter integrity, modeled separately from other fiber orientations in the same voxels. Analyses were conducted on regions of interest previously associated with childhood stress and substance use.

RESULTS:

Lower perceived stress and presence of substance-use initiation were related to greater right cingulum primary-fiber measures. Substance-use-initiation status moderated the association between perceived stress and right cingulum primary-fiber measures, such that higher perceived stress was associated with lower right cingulum primary-fiber anisotropy in adolescents without substance-use initiation, but not in those with substance-use initiation.

CONCLUSIONS AND SCIENTIFIC SIGNIFICANCE:

Findings in primary-fiber anisotropy suggest differences in right cingulum white-matter integrity is associated with substance-use initiation in higher-stress adolescents. This reflects a possible pre-existing risk factor, an impact of early substance use, or a combination thereof. Examination of potential markers associated with substance-use initiation in white-matter microstructure among stress-exposed youth warrant additional investigation as such biomarkers may inform efforts relating to tailored interventions. (Am J Addict 2018;27:217-224).

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