Frontal and cingulate gray matter volume reduction in heroin dependence: Optimized voxel-based morphometry


*Zhimin Xue, MD, Zhening Liu, MD, PhD, Mental Health Institute, Second Xiangya Hospital of Central South University, Changsha 410011, Hunan, China. Email:


Aims:  Repeated exposure to heroin, a typical opiate, causes neuronal adaptation and may result in anatomical changes in specific brain regions, particularly the frontal and limbic cortices. The volume changes of gray matter (GM) of these brain regions, however, have not been identified in heroin addiction.

Methods:  Using structural magnetic resonance imaging and an optimized voxel-based morphometry approach, the GM volume difference between 15 Chinese heroin-dependent and 15 healthy subjects was tested.

Results:  Compared to healthy subjects, the heroin-dependent subjects had reduced GM volume in the right prefrontal cortex, left supplementary motor cortex and bilateral cingulate cortices.

Conclusion:  Frontal and cingulate atrophy may be involved in the neuropathology of heroin dependence.