Metabolic Brain Disease

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 341–349 | Cite as

Structural brain changes in prenatal methamphetamine-exposed children

  • Annerine Roos
  • Gaby Jones
  • Fleur M. Howells
  • Dan J. Stein
  • Kirsten A. Donald
Original Paper


The global use of methamphetamine (MA) has increased substantially in recent years, but the effect of MA on brain structure in prenatally exposed children is understudied. Here we aimed to investigate potential changes in brain volumes and cortical thickness of children with prenatal MA-exposure compared to unexposed controls. Eighteen 6-year old children with MA-exposure during pregnancy and 18 healthy controls matched for age, gender and socio-economic background underwent structural imaging. Brain volumes and cortical thickness were assessed using Freesurfer and compared using ANOVA. Left putamen volume was significantly increased, and reduced cortical thickness was observed in the left hemisphere of the inferior parietal, parsopercularis and precuneus areas of MA-exposed children compared to controls. Compared to control males, prenatal MA-exposed males had greater volumes in striatal and associated areas, whereas MA-exposed females predominantly had greater cortical thickness compared to control females. In utero exposure to MA results in changes in the striatum of the developing child. In addition, changes within the striatal, frontal, and parietal areas are in part gender dependent.


Methamphetamine Brain structure Prenatal Dopamine 



Thank you to Ali Alhamud and Jean-Paul Fouche for their valuable input on brain imaging sequences and analyses, and to Samantha Brooks for grammar editing of the manuscript. Thank you to the funding agencies that supported this study including the Medical Research Council of South Africa, the National Research Foundation and the Harry Crossley Foundation. Thank you also to the Centre for High Performance Computing at Rosebank (Cape Town) who made the Freesurfer analyses possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Annerine Roos
    • 1
  • Gaby Jones
    • 1
  • Fleur M. Howells
    • 2
  • Dan J. Stein
    • 1
  • Kirsten A. Donald
    • 3
  1. 1.MRC Unit on Anxiety & Stress Disorders, Department of PsychiatryStellenbosch UniversityCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Mental HealthUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  3. 3.Division of Developmental PaediatricsUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa

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