Brain macrostructural and microstructural abnormalities in cocaine dependence

Kelvin O. Lim, Jeffrey R. Wozniak, Bryon A. Mueller, Daniel T. Franc, Sheila M. Specker, Craig P. Rodriguez, Amy B. Silverman, John P. Rotrosen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Rationale: Two previous studies have utilized diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to examine microstructural integrity in cocaine abuse and found evidence of brain abnormalities in white matter. Objective: Using anatomical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), DTI, and clinical evaluation, the macrostructural and microstructural correlates of cocaine abuse were investigated. Methods: Twenty-one men and women (mean age 42.5 and mean 18.9 years of cocaine use) and 21 age/gender-matched controls were included. Fractional anisotropy (FA) was measured in frontal white matter ROIs. Gray and white matter volumes in superior and inferior frontal regions were compared. Results: DTI data revealed that cocaine users had lower FA than controls, specifically in inferior frontal white matter. FA differences were not seen in other areas. Significant volumetric differences were not seen, but both gray and white matter inferior frontal volumes trended toward smaller in the cocaine group. The data suggested that duration of use was associated with decreased gray and white matter volumes. FA and gray matter volume were correlated in cocaine users. Conclusions: Both macrostructural and microstructural abnormalities were seen in a group of cocaine abusers. Length of cocaine use was associated with severity of the brain abnormalities. Future studies of white matter tissue integrity are warranted including examination of the relationship between DTI measures and traditional volumetric measures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-172
Number of pages9
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this study was provided by NIDA grant R21DA-015330 (Dr. Lim), NCRR grant P41RR-008079, and the MIND Institute.


  • Abuse
  • Brain
  • Cocaine
  • Dependence
  • Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)


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