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Disrupted Integrity of White Matter in Heroin-addicted Subjects at Different Abstinent Time

Shen, Yunxia PhD; Wang, Erlei MD; Wang, Xiurong MD; Lou, Mingwu MD

Journal of Addiction Medicine: June 2012 - Volume 6 - Issue 2 - p 172–176
doi: 10.1097/ADM.0b013e318252db94
Original Research

Purpose: To investigate and compare the integrity of white matter in heroin–addicted and healthy control subjects at different abstinent time using diffusion tensor imaging.

Materials and Methods: We performed voxelwise analysis of fractional anisotropy (FA) and apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) in 35 currently abstinent heroin abusers who were divided into long-term group (n = 17) and short-term group (n = 18) and 17 healthy volunteers. Measurements of FA and ADC of the identified regions (genu and splenium of corpus callosum, bilateral frontal lobe) were obtained from all subjects.

Results: The FA at callosal splenium was higher in the long-term group than in the short-term group (P < 0.05). The FA at left prefrontal cortex was higher in the short-term group than in the long-term group (P < 0.05). No significant difference in ADC was found among the 3 groups. The education history had a positive correlation with the FA value on the gena of corpus callosum (r = 0.402, P = 0.017). Months of abstinence had a negative correlation with left frontal FA (r = −0.366, P = 0.03) and a positive correlation with splenium FA (r = 0.348, P = 0.04).

Conclusions: Heroin abuse seems to alter white matter microstructure differentially in long-term and short-term heroin addicts. This study will contribute to the current literature by examining the quality of white matter fiber structure in heroin abstinence.

From the Guangzhou University of Chinese medicine (YS), Guangzhou, Guangdong, China; and the Department of Radiology (YS, EW, XW, ML), Longgang Central Hospital of Shenzhen, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China.

Send correspondence and reprint requests to Mingwu Lou, MD, Department of Radiology, Longgang Central Hospital of Shenzhen, No 1228 Shenhui Road, Shenzhen 518116, Guangdong, China. E-mail:

This work was supported by the grants from the Department of Science and Technology of Guangdong Province, China (No:2009B030801072).

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Received June 05, 2011

Accepted June 27, 2012

© 2012 American Society of Addiction Medicine