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Hot Publication - Hill et al.

White Matter Microstructure, Alcohol Exposure, and Familial Risk for Alcohol Dependence

Hill SY, Terwilliger R, McDermott M

Numerous investigations that focus on individuals with chronic alcohol dependence show that long-term consumption of alcohol is associated with both brain morphological and neurocognitive changes. There is an intriguing possibility that some of the observed variation in structural and functional characteristics of individuals who are heavy consumers of alcohol may have existed prior to the initiation of drinking, and that some of these characteristics may actually be markers of vulnerability. Greater susceptibility for developing alcohol dependence may be related to structural underpinnings of behavioral traits that predispose individuals to alcohol dependence.

A study by Dr. Hill and colleagues examined white matter integrity in 44 individuals with a high density of alcohol dependence in their families, and 37 individuals without a family history for either alcohol or drug dependence. Magnetic resonance images were acquired, and the fractional anistropy, apparent diffusion coefficient, radial diffusivity and longitudinal (axial) diffusivity were calculated for major white matter tracts in both hemispheres. Extensive personal histories of alcohol and drug use were available from longitudinal collection of data allowing for reliable estimates of alcohol and drug exposure.

Results showed that the interaction of personal exposure to alcohol and familial risk for alcohol dependence predicts reduced white matter integrity for the inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF) and the superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF) in the left hemisphere and the forceps major tract. Only one tract showed a significant difference for exposure alone, the anterior thalamic radiation.

Contributors:
Shirley Y. Hill, PhD, Robert Terwilliger, PhD, Michael McDermott  (Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh)

The results of this investigation were published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging. Click here for a link to the abstract.