Brain Structure Changes After Prenatal Methamphetamine Use

Alterations observed in brain white matter in exposed children

THURSDAY, April 16 (HealthDay News) -- Prenatal methamphetamine exposure leads to alterations in the structure of brain white matter, according to a study published online April 15 in Neurology.

Christine C. Cloak, Ph.D., and colleagues from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu used 3-Tesla MRI to perform 12-direction diffusion tensor imaging, which allows the evaluation of brain microstructure, in 29 children prenatally exposed to methamphetamine and 37 unexposed children aged 3 to 4 years.

The researchers found that the methamphetamine-exposed children had a significantly lower apparent diffusion coefficient (a measurement of the freedom of water molecules to diffuse) in the frontal and parietal white matter. These children also tended to have higher fractional anisotropy (a measure of the directional diffusivity of water) in the left frontal white matter, according to the study.

"These findings suggest alterations in white matter maturation in these children exposed to methamphetamine in utero," Cloak and colleagues conclude.

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