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Dissociated Accumbens and Hippocampal Structural Abnormalities across Obesity and Alcohol Dependence.

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Mole, Tom B 
Chien, Yee 


BACKGROUND: Processing of food and drug rewards involves specific neurocircuitry, and emerging evidence implicates subcortical abnormalities, particularly the nucleus accumbens and hippocampus. We specifically hypothesized that these 2 established regions in addiction neurocircuitry are associated with distinctive in vivo structural abnormalities in obesity and alcohol dependence. METHODS: To specifically investigate anatomically discrete volumetric changes associated with overconsumption of different rewards, we acquired T1 MRI data from 118 subjects in 3 groups comprising obesity (n=42), alcohol dependence (n=32), and healthy volunteer controls (n=44). To exploit novel methods of automated hippocampal subfield segmentation, we used Freesurfer software to generate volumetric data in subject groups for the hippocampal subiculum and its major striatal efferent target, the nucleus accumbens. Hypothesis-led, selective group difference comparisons were analyzed. RESULTS: We found markedly greater accumbens volumes (P=.002) and relatively preserved hippocampal subfield volumes in obesity. Conversely, in alcohol dependence, we found preserved accumbens volumes but atrophy of specific ventral hippocampal subfields, the subiculum and presubiculum. Smaller global subcortical gray-matter volume was found in the alcohol dependence group only. CONCLUSIONS: Reward neurocircuitry including the accumbens and ventral hippocampus may show key structural abnormalities in disorders involving processing of both food and drug rewards, although the foci of disruption may vary as a function of reward modality. Structural differences may subserve altered reward and motivational processes in obesity and alcohol dependence and represent a potential biomarker for therapeutic targeting in key public health disorders.



accumbens, hippocampus, reward

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Int J Neuropsychopharmacol

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Oxford University Press (OUP)
Wellcome Trust (093875/Z/10/Z)
Wellcome Trust (093705/Z/10/Z)
Research was supported by a Wellcome Trust Intermediate Clinical Fellowship awarded to VV. 093705/Z/10/Z. VV is affiliated with the NIHR Biomedical Research Council University of Cambridge. TM is a NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow in The Department of Psychiatry. Elijah Mak was in receipt of the Gates Cambridge scholarship.