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Reduced Cortical Thickness in Abstinent Alcoholics and Association with Alcoholic Behavior

Authors

  • Catherine B. Fortier,

    1. From the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) (CBF, ECL, DHS, JRV, ALM, VW, WPM, REM), VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts; Department of Psychiatry (CBF, JRV, WPM, REM), Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; VA Boston Healthcare System Neuroimaging Research Center for Veterans (CBF, ECL, DHS, WPM, REM), Boston, Massachusetts; Anthinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging (ECL, DHS, VW), Boston, Massachusetts; and Division of Aging (ECL), Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
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  • Elizabeth C. Leritz,

    1. From the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) (CBF, ECL, DHS, JRV, ALM, VW, WPM, REM), VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts; Department of Psychiatry (CBF, JRV, WPM, REM), Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; VA Boston Healthcare System Neuroimaging Research Center for Veterans (CBF, ECL, DHS, WPM, REM), Boston, Massachusetts; Anthinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging (ECL, DHS, VW), Boston, Massachusetts; and Division of Aging (ECL), Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
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  • David H. Salat,

    1. From the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) (CBF, ECL, DHS, JRV, ALM, VW, WPM, REM), VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts; Department of Psychiatry (CBF, JRV, WPM, REM), Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; VA Boston Healthcare System Neuroimaging Research Center for Veterans (CBF, ECL, DHS, WPM, REM), Boston, Massachusetts; Anthinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging (ECL, DHS, VW), Boston, Massachusetts; and Division of Aging (ECL), Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
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  • Jonathan R. Venne,

    1. From the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) (CBF, ECL, DHS, JRV, ALM, VW, WPM, REM), VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts; Department of Psychiatry (CBF, JRV, WPM, REM), Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; VA Boston Healthcare System Neuroimaging Research Center for Veterans (CBF, ECL, DHS, WPM, REM), Boston, Massachusetts; Anthinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging (ECL, DHS, VW), Boston, Massachusetts; and Division of Aging (ECL), Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
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  • Arkadiy L. Maksimovskiy,

    1. From the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) (CBF, ECL, DHS, JRV, ALM, VW, WPM, REM), VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts; Department of Psychiatry (CBF, JRV, WPM, REM), Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; VA Boston Healthcare System Neuroimaging Research Center for Veterans (CBF, ECL, DHS, WPM, REM), Boston, Massachusetts; Anthinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging (ECL, DHS, VW), Boston, Massachusetts; and Division of Aging (ECL), Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
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  • Victoria Williams,

    1. From the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) (CBF, ECL, DHS, JRV, ALM, VW, WPM, REM), VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts; Department of Psychiatry (CBF, JRV, WPM, REM), Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; VA Boston Healthcare System Neuroimaging Research Center for Veterans (CBF, ECL, DHS, WPM, REM), Boston, Massachusetts; Anthinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging (ECL, DHS, VW), Boston, Massachusetts; and Division of Aging (ECL), Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
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  • William P. Milberg,

    1. From the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) (CBF, ECL, DHS, JRV, ALM, VW, WPM, REM), VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts; Department of Psychiatry (CBF, JRV, WPM, REM), Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; VA Boston Healthcare System Neuroimaging Research Center for Veterans (CBF, ECL, DHS, WPM, REM), Boston, Massachusetts; Anthinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging (ECL, DHS, VW), Boston, Massachusetts; and Division of Aging (ECL), Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
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  • Regina E. McGlinchey

    1. From the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) (CBF, ECL, DHS, JRV, ALM, VW, WPM, REM), VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts; Department of Psychiatry (CBF, JRV, WPM, REM), Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; VA Boston Healthcare System Neuroimaging Research Center for Veterans (CBF, ECL, DHS, WPM, REM), Boston, Massachusetts; Anthinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging (ECL, DHS, VW), Boston, Massachusetts; and Division of Aging (ECL), Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
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Reprint requests:Catherine Brawn Fortier, GRECC (182), VA Boston Healthcare System, 150 South Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02130; Tel.: 857-364-4361; Fax: 857-364-4544; E-mail: Catherine_Fortier@hms.harvard.edu

Abstract

Background:  Chronic misuse of alcohol results in widespread damage to the brain. Prior morphometric studies have examined cortical atrophy in individuals with alcoholism; however, no previous studies have examined alcohol-associated atrophy using cortical thickness measurements to obtain regional mapping of tissue loss across the full cortical surface.

Methods:  We compared cortical thickness measures from 31 abstinent individuals with a history of prior alcohol abuse to 34 healthy nonalcoholic control participants (total sample size = 65). Cortical surface models were created from high-resolution T1-weighted images, and cortical thickness was then estimated as the distance between the gray matter/white matter boundary and the outer cortical surface.

Results:  Abstinent alcoholics showed reduced whole-brain thickness as compared to nonalcoholic participants. Decreases in thickness were found bilaterally in (i) superior frontal, (ii) precentral, (iii) postcentral, (iv) middle frontal, (v) middle/superior temporal, (vi) middle temporal, and (vii) lateral occipital cortical regions. Decreased cortical thickness in the alcoholic group was associated with severity of alcohol abuse.

Conclusions:  These findings demonstrate widespread reduction in cortical thickness as a consequence of chronic alcoholism, with most severe reductions in frontal and temporal brain regions.

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