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Mol Psychiatry. 2015 Dec;20(12):1516-24. doi: 10.1038/mp.2014.191. Epub 2015 Feb 10.

Predisposition to and effects of methamphetamine use on the adolescent brain.

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Ewha Brain Institute, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, South Korea.
Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, South Korea.
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Ewha Womans University Graduate School, Seoul, South Korea.
Department of Psychiatry, The Catholic University of Korea College of Medicine, Seoul, South Korea.
Department of Radiology, Ewha Womans University College of Medicine, Seoul, South Korea.
Department of Psychiatry, Soonchunhyang University College of Medicine, Seoul, South Korea.
Department of Radiology, The Catholic University of Korea College of Medicine, Seoul, South Korea.
The Brain Institute and Department of Psychiatry, The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.


Adolescence is a period of heightened vulnerability both to addictive behaviors and drug-induced brain damage. Yet, only limited information exists on the brain mechanisms underlying these adolescent-specific characteristics. Moreover, distinctions in brain correlates between predisposition to drug use and effects of drugs in adolescents are unclear. Using cortical thickness and diffusion tensor image analyses, we found greater and more widespread gray and white matter alterations, particularly affecting the frontostriatal system, in adolescent methamphetamine (MA) users compared with adult users. Among adolescent-specific gray matter alterations related to MA use, smaller cortical thickness in the orbitofrontal cortex was associated with family history of drug use. Our findings highlight that the adolescent brain, which undergoes active myelination and maturation, is more vulnerable to MA-related alterations than the adult brain. Furthermore, MA-use-related executive dysfunction was greater in adolescent MA users than in adult users. These findings may provide explanation for the severe behavioral complications and relapses that are common in adolescent-onset drug addiction. Additionally, these results may provide insights into distinguishing the neural mechanisms that underlie the predisposition to drug addiction from effects of drugs in adolescents.

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