Brain cortical thickness in male adolescents with serious substance use and conduct problems.
BACKGROUND: Adolescents with substance use disorder (SUD) and conduct problems exhibit high levels of impulsivity and poor self-control. Limited work to date tests for brain cortical thickness differences in these youths. OBJECTIVES: To investigate differences in cortical thickness between adolescents with substance use and conduct problems and controls. METHODS: We recruited 25 male adolescents with SUD, and 19 male adolescent controls, and completed structural 3T magnetic resonance brain imaging. Using the surface-based morphometry software FreeSurfer, we completed region-of-interest (ROI) analyses for group cortical thickness differences in left, and separately right, inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and insula. Using FreeSurfer, we completed whole-cerebrum analyses of group differences in cortical thickness. RESULTS: Versus controls, the SUD group showed no cortical thickness differences in ROI analyses. Controlling for age and IQ, no regions with cortical thickness differences were found using whole-cerebrum analyses (though secondary analyses co-varying IQ and whole-cerebrum cortical thickness yielded a between-group cortical thickness difference in the left posterior cingulate/precuneus). Secondary findings showed that the SUD group, relative to controls, demonstrated significantly less right > left asymmetry in IFG, had weaker insular-to-whole-cerebrum cortical thickness correlations, and showed a positive association between conduct disorder symptom count and cortical thickness in a superior temporal gyrus cluster. CONCLUSION: Functional group differences may reflect a more nuanced cortical morphometric difference than ROI cortical thickness. Further investigation of morphometric differences is needed. If replicable findings can be established, they may aid in developing improved diagnostic or more targeted treatment approaches.