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Methamphetamine Abuse, HIV Infection Cause Changes in Brain Structure

New research published in the August 2005 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry indicates that methamphetamine abuse and HIV infection cause significant alterations in the size of certain brain structures, and in both cases the changes may be associated with impaired cognitive functions, such as difficulties in learning new information, solving problems, maintaining attention and quickly processing information. Co-occurring methamphetamine abuse and HIV infection appears to result in greater impairment than each condition alone.

“Methamphetamine abuse is linked with HIV, hepatitis C, and other sexually transmitted diseases, not only by the use of contaminated injection equipment, but also due to increased risky sexual behaviors,?says Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health, which helped support the research. “These findings show that methamphetamine abuse and HIV infection each cause significant changes in the volume of brain gray matter structures and cognitive function.?/p>

Scientists led by Dr. Terry Jernigan of the HIV Neurobehavioral Research Center of the University of California-San Diego conducted brain scans to analyze structural volume changes in 103 adults divided among four populations: methamphetamine abusers who were HIV-positive; methamphetamine abusers who were HIV-negative; nonabusers who were HIV-positive; and nonabusers who were HIV-negative. They also assessed the ability to think and reason using a detailed battery of tests that examined speed of information processing, attention/working memory, learning and delayed recall, abstraction/executive functioning, verbal fluency, and motor functioning.

They observed that methamphetamine abuse is associated with increases in the volume of the brain’s parietal cortex (which helps people to understand and pay attention to what’s going on around them) and basal ganglia (linked to motor function and motivation). HIV
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Source:NIH


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