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Investigating Maternal Brain Structure and its Relationship to Substance Use and Motivational Systems

1Yale Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.
2Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
Publication Date:
Yale J Biol Med
Volume Number:
Issue Number:
Yale J Biol Med. 2015 Sep 3;88(3):211-7.
PubMed ID:
addiction, behavioral inhibition/behavioral activation, gray matter, maternal brain, substance use
Appears in Collections:
P01 DA022446/DA/NIDA NIH HHS/United States
R01 DA026437/DA/NIDA NIH HHS/United States
U54 EB005149/EB/NIBIB NIH HHS/United States
UL1 RR024139/RR/NCRR NIH HHS/United States
Generated Citation:
Rutherford H.J.V., Gerig G., Gouttard S., Potenza M.N., Mayes L.C. Investigating Maternal Brain Structure and its Relationship to Substance Use and Motivational Systems. Yale J Biol Med. 2015 Sep 3;88(3):211-7. PMID: 26339203. PMCID: PMC4553640.
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Substance use during pregnancy and the postpartum period may have significant implications for both mother and the developing child. However, the neurobiological basis of the impact of substance use on parenting is less well understood. Here, we examined the impact of maternal substance use on cortical gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) volumes and whether this was associated with individual differences in motivational systems of behavioral activation and inhibition. Mothers were included in the substance-using group if any addictive substance was used during pregnancy and/or in the immediate postpartum period (within 3 months of delivery). GM volume was reduced in substance-using mothers compared to non-substance-using mothers, particularly in frontal brain regions. In substance-using mothers, we also found that frontal GM was negatively correlated with levels of behavioral activation (i.e., the motivation to approach rewarding stimuli). This effect was absent in non-substance-using mothers. Taken together, these findings indicate a reduction in GM volume is associated with substance use and that frontal GM volumetric differences may be related to approach motivation in substance-using mothers.