Structural abnormalities in the brains of human subjects who use methamphetamine.

TitleStructural abnormalities in the brains of human subjects who use methamphetamine.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsThompson, PM, Hayashi KM, Simon SL, Geaga JA, Hong MS, Sui Y, Lee JY, Toga AW, Ling W, London ED
JournalThe Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Date Published2004 Jun 30
KeywordsAdult, Amphetamine-Related Disorders, Brain, Brain Mapping, cerebral cortex, Dominance, Cerebral, Female, Gyrus Cinguli, Hippocampus, Humans, Hypertrophy, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Limbic System, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Memory Disorders, Methamphetamine, Myelin Sheath

We visualize, for the first time, the profile of structural deficits in the human brain associated with chronic methamphetamine (MA) abuse. Studies of human subjects who have used MA chronically have revealed deficits in dopaminergic and serotonergic systems and cerebral metabolic abnormalities. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and new computational brain-mapping techniques, we determined the pattern of structural brain alterations associated with chronic MA abuse in human subjects and related these deficits to cognitive impairment. We used high-resolution MRI and surface-based computational image analyses to map regional abnormalities in the cortex, hippocampus, white matter, and ventricles in 22 human subjects who used MA and 21 age-matched, healthy controls. Cortical maps revealed severe gray-matter deficits in the cingulate, limbic, and paralimbic cortices of MA abusers (averaging 11.3% below control; p < 0.05). On average, MA abusers had 7.8% smaller hippocampal volumes than control subjects (p < 0.01; left, p = 0.01; right, p < 0.05) and significant white-matter hypertrophy (7.0%; p < 0.01). Hippocampal deficits were mapped and correlated with memory performance on a word-recall test (p < 0.05). MRI-based maps suggest that chronic methamphetamine abuse causes a selective pattern of cerebral deterioration that contributes to impaired memory performance. MA may selectively damage the medial temporal lobe and, consistent with metabolic studies, the cingulate-limbic cortex, inducing neuroadaptation, neuropil reduction, or cell death. Prominent white-matter hypertrophy may result from altered myelination and adaptive glial changes, including gliosis secondary to neuronal damage. These brain substrates may help account for the symptoms of MA abuse, providing therapeutic targets for drug-induced brain injury.

Alternate JournalJ. Neurosci.