Binge drinking and age at first full drink of alcohol prior to 21 years (AFD<21) have been linked to neuroanatomical differences in cortical and subcortical grey matter (GM) volume, cortical thickness, and surface area. Despite the potential to reveal novel network-level relationships, structural covariation patterns among these morphological measures have yet to be examined relative to binge drinking and AFD<21. Here, we used the Joint and Individual Variance Explained (JIVE) method to characterize structural covariation patterns common across and specific to morphological measures in 293 participants (149 individuals with binge drinking and 144 healthy controls) from the Human Connectome Project (HCP). An independent dataset (Nathan Kline Institute Rockland Sample; NKI-RS) was used to examine reproducibility/ generalizability. We identified a highly reproducible joint component dominated by structural covariation between GM volume in the brainstem and thalamus proper, and GM volume and surface area in prefrontal cortical regions. Using linear mixed regression models, we found that this joint component was related to AFD<21 in both the HCP and NKI-RS datasets, whereas the individual thickness component associated with binge drinking and AFD<21 in the HCP dataset was not statistically significant in the NKI-RS sample. Taken together, our results show that a highly reproducible structural pattern involving covariation in brain regions relevant to thalamic-PFC-brainstem neural circuitry is linked to age at first full drink.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience