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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2011 Dec 15;119(3):207-15. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2011.06.017. Epub 2011 Jul 19.

Age and sex effects levels of choline compounds in the anterior cingulate cortex of adolescent methamphetamine users.

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Department of Medicine, University of Hawaii, Manoa, John A. Burns School of Medicine, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA.



Methamphetamine can be neurotoxic to the adult brain; however, many individuals first use methamphetamine during adolescence, and the drug's impact on this period of brain development is unknown. Therefore, we evaluated young methamphetamine users for possible abnormalities in brain metabolite concentrations.


Anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), frontal white matter (FWM), basal ganglia, and thalamus were studied with localized proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy in 54 periadolescent (ages 13-23 years) methamphetamine users and 53 comparison subjects. The concentrations of major brain metabolites and their associations with age, sex and cognition were assessed.


FWM total-creatine correlated with age in methamphetamine-using males and comparison females, but not comparison males or methamphetamine-using females, leading to a drug by sex by age interaction (p=0.003) and ACC choline-containing compounds (CHO) correlated with age only in comparison males leading to a drug by sex by age interaction (p=0.03). Higher ACC CHO was associated with faster performance on the Stroop Interference task in the control males. Male methamphetamine users had slowest performance on the Stroop Interference task and did not show age-appropriate levels of ACC CHO.


The altered age-appropriate levels of ACC CHO and poorer executive function in male methamphetamine users suggest methamphetamine abuse may interfere with brain maturation. These periadolescents did not have the abnormal neuronal markers previously reported in adult methamphetamine users, suggesting that neuronal abnormalities may be the result of long-term use or interference in normal cortical maturation, emphasizing the need for early intervention for young methamphetamine users.

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