Reduced limbic metabolism and fronto-cortical volume in rats vulnerable to alcohol addiction

Alessandro Gozzi, Federica Agosta, Maurizio Massi, Roberto Ciccocioppo, Angelo Bifone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Alcohol abuse is associated with long-term reductions in fronto-cortical volume and limbic metabolism. However, an unanswered question in alcohol research is whether these alterations are the sole consequence of chronic alcohol use, or contain heritable contributions reflecting biological propensity toward ethanol addiction. Animal models of genetic predisposition to alcohol dependence can be used to investigate the role of inborn brain abnormalities in the aetiology of alcoholism. Here we used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the Marchigian-Sardinian (msP) alcohol-preferring rats to assess the presence of inherited structural or functional brain alterations. Alcohol-naïve msP (N = 22) and control rats (N = 26) were subjected to basal cerebral blood volume (bCBV) mapping followed by voxel-based morphometry (VBM) of grey matter and tract-based spatial statistics mapping of white matter fractional anisotropy. msP rats exhibited significantly reduced bCBV, an established marker of resting brain function, in focal cortico-limbic and thalamic areas, together with reduced grey matter volume in the thalamus, ventral tegmental area, insular and cingulate cortex. No statistically significant differences in fractional anisotropy were observed between groups. These findings highlight the presence of inborn grey matter and metabolic abnormalities in alcohol-naïve msP rats, the localization and sign of which are remarkably similar to those mapped in abstinent alcoholics and subjects at high risk for alcohol dependence. Collectively, these results point for a significant role of heritable neurofunctional brain alterations in biological propensity toward ethanol addiction, and support the translational use of advanced imaging methods to describe the circuital determinants of vulnerability to drug addiction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-119
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2013


  • Addiction
  • Alcohol
  • FMRI
  • Grey matter
  • Metabolism
  • VBM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology


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