Global white matter microstructural abnormalities associated with addiction liability score in drug naïve youth

Leslie Hulvershorn, Tom Hummer, Yu Chien Wu, Ralph Tarter, Parker Rea, Amit Anand, R. Andrew Chambers, Peter Finn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abnormalities in brain white matter (WM) structure have been reported in youths having a family history of substance use disorders (SUDs). It was hypothesized that these abnormalities constitute features of the liability for SUDs transmitted across generations. The association between severity of intergenerational risk for SUD, measured by the Transmissible Liability Index (TLI), and white matter microstructure was examined. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) measured WM microstructure in forty-four drug-naïve 10–14 year-olds (N = 19 with parental SUD). Metrics of WM microstructure (i.e., fractional anisotropy, radial diffusivity, mean diffusivity and axial diffusivity) were quantified across the whole brain and in four tracts of interest: anterior corona radiata, superior and inferior longitudinal fasciculi and superior fronto-occipital fasciculi. The TLI was completed by the youths, their parents and, when available, their teachers. The relationship between WM structure and TLI score across the entire group was evaluated using linear multiple regression and between group comparisons were also examined. Fractional anisotropy and radial diffusivity in multiple tracts across the brain were significantly associated with TLI scores. Confirming and extending prior research, the findings indicate that global atypicality in WM tracts was linearly related to liability for eventual SUD development in drug naïve youths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-283
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Imaging and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Adolescence
  • Diffusion
  • Substance use disorders
  • White matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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