Differences in White Matter Microstructure and Connectivity in Nontreatment-Seeking Individuals with Alcohol Use Disorder

Evgeny J. Chumin, Joaquín Goñi, Meredith E. Halcomb, Timothy C. Durazzo, Mario Dzemidzic, Karmen K. Yoder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Background: Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) has been widely used to investigate the integrity of white matter (WM; indexed by fractional anisotropy [FA]) in alcohol dependence and cigarette smoking. These disorders are highly comorbid, yet cigarette use has often not been adequately controlled in neuroimaging studies of alcohol-dependent populations. In addition, information on WM deficits in currently drinking, nontreatment-seeking (NTS) individuals with alcohol dependence is limited. Therefore, the aim of this work was to investigate WM microstructural integrity in alcohol use disorder by comparing matched samples of cigarette smoking NTS and social drinkers (SD). Methods: Thirty-eight smoking NTS and 19 smoking SD subjects underwent DWI as well as structural magnetic resonance imaging. After an in-house preprocessing of the DWI data, FA images were analyzed with tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS). FA obtained from the TBSS skeleton was tested for correlation with recent alcohol consumption. Results: Smoking NTS had lower FA relative to smoking SD, predominantly in the left hemisphere (p < 0.05, family-wise error rate corrected across FA skeleton). Across the full sample, FA and number of drinks per week were negatively related (ρ = −0.348, p = 0.008). Qualitative analyses of the structural connections through compromised WM as identified by TBSS showed differential connectivity of gray matter in NTS compared to SD subjects of left frontal, temporal, and parietal regions. Conclusions: NTS subjects had lower WM FA than SD, indicating compromised WM integrity in the NTS population. The inverse relationship of entire WM skeleton FA with self-reported alcohol consumption supports previous evidence of a continuum of detrimental effects of alcohol consumption on WM. These results provide additional evidence that alcohol dependence is associated with reduced WM integrity in currently drinking NTS alcohol-dependent individuals, after controlling for the key variable of cigarette smoking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)889-896
Number of pages8
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018


  • Alcohol Use Disorder
  • Connectivity
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Neuroimaging
  • Tract-Based Spatial Statistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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