All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Jarred Younger

Advisory Committee Members

Karen Cropsey

Kristina Visscher

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences


Objective: Long- and short-term opioid use is associated with morphological changes in the human brain. Opioids have analgesic and adverse effects, including addiction, that differently impact men and women. The current study aimed to investigate whether differences exist between men and women in gray matter volume changes after acute morphine treatment for chronic low back pain. Methods: This study analyzed data from 27 chronic low back pain patients (17 men, 10 women) who were treated with oral morphine over a period of 30 days. High-resolution structural images were acquired immediately before and after morphine treatment. Images were compared using voxel based morphometry. Differential regions of gray matter change in men and women were tested for correlation with morphine dosage and other behavioral measures such as pain reduction. Results: There were no significant morphological differences between men and women in selected pain processing- and reward-related regions of interest. Whole brain analysis, however, revealed differential changes in gray matter of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), right middle frontal gyrus (MFG), and left insula. These differences were not significantly correlated with morphine dosage or behavioral measures. Conclusions: This study is the first to assess morphological differences between men and women over a course of opioid treatment. We found that there were no significant differences in the impact of opioids on selected reward-related regions of interest. Therefore, men and women may be at an equal risk for addiction to opioid medication. However, there are brain areas where men and women differ in response to opioids. These findings warrant future research.



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