Disrupted integrity of white matter in heroin-addicted subjects at different abstinent time

Yunxia Shen, Erlei Wang, Xiurong Wang, Mingwu Lou
Journal of Addiction Medicine 2012, 6 (2): 172-6

PURPOSE: To investigate and compare the integrity of white matter in heroin-addicted and healthy control subjects at different abstinent time using diffusion tensor imaging.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We performed voxelwise analysis of fractional anisotropy (FA) and apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) in 35 currently abstinent heroin abusers who were divided into long-term group (n = 17) and short-term group (n = 18) and 17 healthy volunteers. Measurements of FA and ADC of the identified regions (genu and splenium of corpus callosum, bilateral frontal lobe) were obtained from all subjects.

RESULTS: The FA at callosal splenium was higher in the long-term group than in the short-term group (P < 0.05). The FA at left prefrontal cortex was higher in the short-term group than in the long-term group (P < 0.05). No significant difference in ADC was found among the 3 groups. The education history had a positive correlation with the FA value on the gena of corpus callosum (r = 0.402, P = 0.017). Months of abstinence had a negative correlation with left frontal FA (r = -0.366, P = 0.03) and a positive correlation with splenium FA (r = 0.348, P = 0.04).

CONCLUSIONS: Heroin abuse seems to alter white matter microstructure differentially in long-term and short-term heroin addicts. This study will contribute to the current literature by examining the quality of white matter fiber structure in heroin abstinence.

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