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Psychiatry Res. 2004 Dec 15;132(2):95-106.

Smaller subcortical volumes and cognitive deficits in children with prenatal methamphetamine exposure.

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Department of Medicine, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawai'I, HI 96813, USA.


The purpose of this pilot study was to examine possible neurotoxic effects of prenatal methamphetamine (Meth) exposure on the developing brain and on cognition. Meth-exposed children (n=13) and unexposed control subjects (n=15) were evaluated with MRI. Global brain volumes and regional brain structures were quantified. Ten Meth-exposed and nine unexposed children also completed neurocognitive assessments. Meth-exposed children scored lower on measures of visual motor integration, attention, verbal memory and long-term spatial memory. There were no differences among the groups in motor skills, short delay spatial memory or measures of non-verbal intelligence. Despite comparable whole brain volumes in each group, the Meth-exposed children had smaller putamen bilaterally (-17.7%), smaller globus pallidus (left: -27%, right: 30%), smaller hippocampus volumes (left: -19%, right: -20%) and a trend for a smaller caudate bilaterally (-13%). The reduction in these brain structures correlated with poorer performance on sustained attention and delayed verbal memory. No group differences in volumes were noted in the thalamus, midbrain or the cerebellum. In summary, compared with the control group, children exposed to Meth prenatally exhibit smaller subcortical volumes and associated neurocognitive deficits. These preliminary findings suggest prenatal Meth exposure may be neurotoxic to the developing brain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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