Background: Striatal neuroadaptations are regarded to play an important role in the progression from voluntary to compulsive use of addictive substances and provide a promising target for the identification of neuroimaging biomarkers. Recent advances in surface-based computational analysis enable morphological assessment linking variations in global and local striatal shape to duration and magnitude of substance use with a degree of sensitivity that exceeds standard volumetric analysis.
Methods: This study used a new segmentation methodology coupled with local surface-based indices of surface area and displacement to provide a comprehensive structural characterization of the striatum in 34 patients entering treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) and 49 controls, and to examine the influence of recent substance use on abnormal age-related striatal deformation in SUD patients.
Results: Patients showed a small reduction in striatal volume and no difference in surface area or shape in comparison to controls. Between-group differences in shape were likely neutralized by the bidirectional influence of recent substance use on striatal shape in SUD patients. Specifically, there was an interaction between age and substance such that among older patients more drug use was associated with greater inward striatal contraction but more alcohol use was associated with greater outward expansion.
Conclusions: This study builds on previous work and advances our understanding of the nature of striatal neuroadaptations as a potential biomarker of disease progression in addiction.
Keywords: Alcohol; MRI; Morphology; Plasticity; Polydrug; Striatum.
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