Extensive abnormality of brain white matter integrity in pathological gambling (2011)

Comments: Disorganized white matter is a marker for drug addiction. Studies on Internet addiction have found disorganized white matter.

Psychiatry Res. 2011 Dec 30;194(3):340-6. Epub 2011 Nov 10.

 Joutsa J, Saunavaara J, Parkkola R, Niemelä S, Kaasinen V.


Department of Neurology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland; Turku PET Centre, University of Turku, Finland. [email protected]


Several magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies in substance use disorders have shown brain white matter integrity abnormalities, but there are no studies in pathological gambling, a form of behavioral addiction. Our objective was to investigate possible changes in regional brain gray and white matter volumes, and axonal white matter integrity in pathological gamblers compared to healthy controls. Twenty-four subjects (12 clinically diagnosed male pathological gamblers and 12 age-matched healthy male volunteers) underwent structural and diffusion weighted brain MRI scans, which were analyzed with voxel-based morphometry and tract based spatial statistics. In pathological gamblers, widespread lower white matter integrity (lower fractional anisotropy, higher mean diffusivity) was seen in multiple brain regions including the corpus callosum, the cingulum, the superior longitudinal fascicle, the inferior fronto-occipital fascicle, the anterior limb of internal capsule, the anterior thalamic radiation, the inferior longitudinal fascicle and the uncinate/inferior fronto-occipital fascicle. There were no volumetric differences in gray or white matter between pathological gamblers and controls. The results suggest that pathological gambling is associated with extensive lower integrity of several brain white matter tracts. The diffusion abnormality closely resembles previous findings in individuals with substance addictions.

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