Meta-analysis of grey matter changes and their behavioral characterization in patients with alcohol use disorder

Sci Rep. 2021 Mar 4;11(1):5238. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-84804-7.


Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is associated with reductions in grey matter (GM) volume which can lead to changes in numerous brain functions. The results of previous studies on altered GM in AUD differ considerably in the regions identified. Three meta-analyses carried out between 2014 and 2017 yielded different results. The present study includes the considerable amount of newer research and delivers a state-of-the art meta-analysis in line with recently published guidelines. Additionally, we behaviorally characterized affected regions using fMRI metadata and identified related brain networks by determining their meta-analytic connectivity patterns. Twenty-seven studies with 1,045 AUD patients and 1,054 healthy controls were included in the analysis and analyzed by means of Anatomical Likelihood Estimation (ALE). GM alterations were identified in eight clusters covering different parts of the cingulate and medial frontal gyri, paracentral lobes, left post- and precentral gyri, left anterior and right posterior insulae and left superior frontal gyrus. The behavioral characterization associated these regions with specific cognitive, emotional, somatosensory and motor functions. Moreover, the clusters represent nodes within behaviorally relevant brain networks. Our results suggest that GM reduction in AUD could disrupt network communication responsible for the neurocognitive impairments associated with high chronic alcohol consumption.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / pathology
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis
  • Alcoholism / diagnostic imaging*
  • Alcoholism / pathology
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / diagnostic imaging*
  • Gray Matter / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroimaging / methods