FIP Virtual Postdoc Seminar "Prenatal Heroin Exposure Alters Diffusion Weighted Brain Connectivity in Adolescent Offspring"

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Wed, 08/18/2021 - 12:00 to 13:00

Dr. Kathryn Hornburg


Dr. Kathryn Hornburg, BME Postdoc, Duke University


The United States is experiencing an opioid addiction epidemic, which has resulted in an increase in in utero exposure. While the long-term consequences of in utero opioid exposure on offspring have yet to be fully explored, data suggests profound impacts, normally identified at school age. Understanding the basis for deficits is critical to identifying individuals and developing interventions. Here, we examine how in utero exposure of mice to heroin affects brain development into early adolescence (P28). Pregnant C57BL/6J dams were exposed to escalating doses of heroin from gestational days 4-18. Magnetic resonance histology was performed on postmortem offspring brains. We identified differences in regional volume and/or fractional anisotropy, identifying those associated with reward, learning, and memory. We demonstrate that structure-based connectomic analysis using dimensional reduction can be used to detect drug-associated changes in brain connectivity, highlighting changes in the cingulate and motor cortices. In-line with clinical evidence, our findings suggest that in utero opioid exposure may have detrimental effects on brain morphology, connectivity and, consequently, function that persist into adolescence and beyond.

Dr. Kathryn Hornburg is a Post Doctoral Associate in the Center for In Vivo Microscopy in the School of Medicine at Duke University. Her research focuses on image processing and analysis of preclinical (mouse model) diffusion weighted MRI connectometry data to define the impact of injury or disease on neurologic pathways. The methods allow for a whole brain analytical approach to investigating disease pathways to compliment traditional methods of behavioral study and histology. She was educated at North Carolina State University; culminating in 2019 with a PhD in electrical engineering focused on polarization optic systems. Previously fascinated by bio related applications from coursework and conferences, Dr. Hornburg joined the Center for In Vivo Microscopy directed by Dr. G Allan Johnson at Duke University immediately following her Ph.D.