Schulte, T., Müller-Oehring, E. M., Pfefferbaum, A., & Sullivan, E. V. (2022). Neurocircuitry of emotion and cognition in alcoholism: contributions from white matter fiber tractography. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience.
Chronic alcoholism is characterized by impaired control over emotionally motivated actions towards alcohol use. Neuropathologically, it is associated with widespread brain structural compromise marked by gray matter shrinkage, ventricular enlargement, and white matter degradation. The extent to which cortical damage itself or cortical disconnection by white matter fiber pathway disruption contribute to deficits in emotion, cognition, and behavior can be investigated with in vivo structural neuroimaging and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI)-based quantitative fiber tracking. Tractography in alcoholism has revealed abnormalities in selective white matter fiber bundles involving limbic fiber tracts (fornix and cingulum) that connect cortico-limbic-striatal nodes of emotion and reward circuits. Studies documenting brain-behavior relationships support the role of alcoholism-related white matter fiber degradation as a substrate of clinical impairment. An understanding of the role of cortico-limbic fiber degradation in emotional dysregulation in alcoholism is now emerging.