Medial forebrain bundle structure is linked to human impulsivity

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Science Advances  16 Sep 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 38, eaba4788
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba4788


Comparative research indicates that projections from midbrain dopamine nuclei [including the ventral tegmental area (VTA)] to the ventral striatum [including the nucleus accumbens (NAcc)] critically support motivated behavior. Using diffusion-weighted imaging and probabilistic tractography in humans, we characterized the trajectory and structure of two tracts connecting the VTA and NAcc, as well as others connecting the substantia nigra and dorsal striatum. Decreased structural coherence of an inferior VTA–NAcc tract was primarily and replicably associated with increased trait impulsivity and also distinguished individuals with a stimulant use disorder from healthy controls. These findings suggest that decreased coherence of the inferior VTA–NAcc tract is associated with increased impulsivity in humans and identify a previously uncharacterized structural target for diagnosing disorders marked by impulsivity.

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