Prefrontal-habenular microstructural impairments in human cocaine and heroin addiction

Sarah G. King, Pierre Olivier Gaudreault, Pias Malaker, Joo won Kim, Nelly Alia-Klein, Junqian Xu, Rita Z. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The habenula (Hb) is central to adaptive reward- and aversion-driven behaviors, comprising a hub for higher-order processing networks involving the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Despite an established role in preclinical models of cocaine addiction, the translational significance of the Hb and its connectivity with the PFC in humans is unclear. Using diffusion tractography, we detailed PFC structural connectivity with the Hb and two control regions, quantifying tract-specific microstructural features in healthy and cocaine-addicted individuals. White matter was uniquely impaired in PFC-Hb projections in both short-term abstainers and current cocaine users. Abnormalities in this tract further generalized to an independent sample of heroin-addicted individuals and were associated, in an exploratory analysis, with earlier onset of drug use across the addiction subgroups, potentially serving as a predisposing marker amenable for early intervention. Importantly, these findings contextualize a plausible PFC-Hb circuit in the human brain, supporting preclinical evidence for its impairment in cocaine addiction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3820-3832.e4
Issue number22
StatePublished - 16 Nov 2022


  • anterior limb of the internal capsule
  • cocaine addiction
  • diffusion tractography
  • habenula
  • heroin addiction
  • prefrontal cortex
  • premorbid markers


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