The Cerebellum

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 198–209 | Cite as

Cerebellar Lingula Size and Experiential Risk Factors Associated with High Levels of Alcohol and Drug Use in Young Adults

  • Carl M. Anderson
  • Keren Rabi
  • Scott E. Lukas
  • Martin H. Teicher


Previous studies have reported cerebellar abnormalities or static ataxia associated with risk for chronic use of alcohol and drugs. Adverse childhood experience is another strong risk factor for later substance abuse. We therefore sought to ascertain the relationship between morphological phenotypes of the lingula (lobule I) of the anterior cerebellar vermis, and exposure to emotional (EM) versus physical (PM) maltreatment, on the degree of ongoing alcohol or drug use. The study design consisted of a cross-sectional in vivo neuroimaging study, utilizing retrospective assessment of maltreatment history and self-reports of alcohol and substance use. Study participants were 153 subjects (54 M/99F, 21.9 ± 2.2 years) selected for imaging from a database of 1,402 community participants 18–25 years of age, who completed a detailed online screening instrument and met rigorous inclusion/exclusion criteria. Subjects were exposed to only physical abuse or harsh corporal punishment (HCP; PM group, n = 37) and parental verbal abuse and/or witnessing domestic violence (EM group, n = 58) or had no history of maltreatment or axis I disorders (n = 58). The main outcome measures consisted of the gray matter volume of lobule I as measured by manual tracing, number and type of alcoholic beverages consumed during a drinking session, number of sessions per month, and monthly drug use, along with family history of drug and alcohol abuse. Lingula thickness was not attenuated by alcohol use or maltreatment history. However, increased lingula thickness was associated with greater consumption of drugs and hard liquor, particularly in physically maltreated subjects who consumed 2.5- and 2.7-fold more alcohol and used drugs 6.1- and 7.8-fold more frequently than controls or EM subjects, respectively. In conclusion, physical maltreatment was observed to interact with cerebellar morphology resulting in a strong association with alcohol and substance use. Lingula thickness may represent a novel, experientially sensitive, phenotypic risk factor for enhanced alcohol and drug use that perhaps modulates sensitivity to these agents.


Cerebellar lingula Experiential risk factor Alcohol use Drug use Young adults Cerebellum Vermis 



The authors thank the following individuals: (data collection) Cynthia E. McGreenery and Ann Polcari, Ph.D., R.N; (editing) Mary R. Kolodny, MA, and Steven B. Lowen, Ph.D.; (imaging) Michael L. Rohan, Ph.D., and Kathleen Thangaraj, BS RTR MR.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carl M. Anderson
    • 3
    • 4
  • Keren Rabi
    • 2
  • Scott E. Lukas
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Martin H. Teicher
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.The Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory and Sleep Research ProgramMcLean HospitalBelmontUSA
  2. 2.The Developmental Biopsychiatry Research ProgramMcLean HospitalBelmontUSA
  3. 3.The NeuroImaging CenterBelmontUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychiatryHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  5. 5.Department of PharmacologyHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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