Neuroimaging evidence for structural correlates in adolescents resilient to polysubstance use: A five-year follow-up study

Early initiation of polysubstance use (PSU) is a strong predictor of subsequent addiction, however scarce individuals present resilience capacity. This neuroimaging study aimed to investigate structural correlates associated with cessation or reduction of PSU and determine the extent to which brain structural features accounted for this resilient outcome. Participants from a European community-based cohort self-reported their alcohol, tobacco and cannabis use frequency at ages 14, 16 and 19 and had neuroimaging sessions at ages 14 and 19. We included three groups in the study: the resilient-to-PSU participants showed PSU at 16 and/or 14 but no more at 19 (n = 18), the enduring polysubstance users at 19 displayed PSU continuation from 14 or 16 (n = 193) and the controls were abstinent or low drinking participants (n = 460). We conducted between-group comparisons of grey matter volumes on whole brain using voxel-based morphometry and regional fractional anisotropy using tract-based spatial statistics. Random-forests machine-learning approach generated individual-level PSU-behavior predictions based on personality and neuroimaging features. Adolescents resilient to PSU showed significant larger grey matter volumes in the bilateral cingulate gyrus compared with enduring polysubstance users and controls at ages 19 and 14 (p<0.05 corrected) but no difference in fractional anisotropy. The larger cingulate volumes and personality trait ""openness to experience"" were the best precursors of resilience to PSU. Early in adolescence, a larger cingulate gyrus differentiated adolescents resilient to PSU, and this feature was critical in predicting this outcome. This study encourages further research into the neurobiological bases of resilience to addictive behaviors.

Keywords: Adolescence; Neuroimaging; Polysubstance use; Prediction; Resilience.