Dysfunctional Default Mode Network in Methadone Treated Patients Who Have a Higher Heroin Relapse Risk

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The purpose of this study was to identify whether heroin relapse is associated with changes in the functional connectivity of the default mode network (DMN) during methadone maintenance treatment (MMT). Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data of chronic heroin relapsers (HR) (12 males, 1 female, age: 36.1 ± 6.9 years) and abstainers (HA) (11males, 2 female; age: 42.1 ± 8.1 years) were investigated with an independent component analysis to address the functional connectivity of their DMN. Group comparison was then performed between the relapsers and abstainers. Our study found that the left inferior temporal gyrus and the right superior occipital gyrus associated with DMN showed decreased functional connectivity in HR when compared with HA, while the left precuneus and the right middle cingulum had increased functional connectivity. Mean intensity signal, extracted from left inferior temporal gyrus of HR patients, showed a significant negative correlation corresponding to the degree of heroin relapse. These findings suggest that altered functional connectivity of DMN may contribute to the potential neurobiological mechanism(s) of heroin relapse and have a predictive value concerning heroin relapse under MMT.