Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers ID brain abnormalities in children exposed to methamphetamine in utero

17.03.2010
Knowing the pattern of damage could help with diagnosis of affected children
It has long been known that alcohol exposure is toxic to the developing fetus and can result in lifelong brain, cognitive and behavioral problems. Now, a new report out of UCLA shows that the effects of prenatal methamphetamine exposure — or worse, a combination of methamphetamine and alcohol — may be even more damaging.

Reporting in the March 17 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, UCLA professor of neurology Elizabeth Sowell and her colleagues used structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI) to show for the first time that individuals whose mothers abused methamphetamine during pregnancy, with or without alcohol abuse, had structural abnormalities in the brain that were more severe than those seen in children whose mothers abused alcohol alone.

The researchers identified the brain structures that are vulnerable in such exposure, which may help predict particular learning and behavioral problems in methamphetamine-exposed children.

"We know that alcohol exposure is toxic to the developing fetus and can result in lifelong problems," said Sowell, the study's senior author. "In this study, we show that the effects of prenatal meth exposure, or the combination of meth and alcohol exposure, may actually be worse, and our findings stress the importance of seeking drug-abuse treatment for pregnant women."

In particular, said Sowell, a structure in the brain called the caudate nucleus, which is important for learning and memory, motor control, and punishment and reward, was one of the regions that was more reduced by methamphetamine than alcohol exposure.

Of the more than 16 million Americans over the age of 12 who have used methamphetamine, about 19,000 have been pregnant women, according to 2002–04 data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

"About half of women who say they used meth during pregnancy also used alcohol," Sowell said, "so isolating the effects of meth on the developing brain was difficult."

The researchers overcame this challenge, she said, by recruiting women who abused alcohol but not methamphetamine during pregnancy and compared them to the children with exposure to both drugs, and to a group that was not exposed.

The neuroscientists evaluated the specific effects of prenatal methamphetamine exposure by comparing brain scans of 61 children, whose average age was 11. Of these, 21 had prenatal methamphetamine and alcohol exposure, 13 had heavy alcohol exposure only and 27 were unexposed. Structural magnetic resonance imaging showed that the sizes and shapes of certain brain structures varied depending on prenatal drug exposure.

Previous studies have shown that certain brain structures are smaller in alcohol-exposed children. In this study, the authors found that these brain regions in methamphetamine-exposed children were similar to those in alcohol-exposed children and that in some areas they were even smaller. Some brain regions were larger than normal. For example, an abnormal volume increase was noted in methamphetamine-exposed children in a region called the cingulate cortex, which is associated with control and conflict resolution.

"Either scenario — smaller or larger growth — could be a bad thing in kids with prenatal drug exposure," Sowell noted. "There are enormous developmental changes that take place during adolescence. These drugs are likely altering the trajectory of development, and clearly not in a good way."

This brain imaging may also aid in treatment. Because the researchers were also able to predict a child's past exposure to drugs based on imaging and IQ information, detailed data about vulnerable brain structures may eventually be used to diagnose children with cognitive or behavioral problems, even when well-documented histories of drug exposure are not available.

"The tragedy here is that all these developmental problems are 100 percent avoidable," Sowell said. "The important message is to urge drug abusing women to seek treatment during pregnancy."

Other authors on the paper included Alex D. Leow, Susan Y. Bookheimer, Lynne M. Smith, Mary J. O'Connor, Eric Kan, Carly Rosso, Suzanne Houston, Ivo D. Dinov and Paul M. Thompson, all of UCLA.

The research was supported by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the March of Dimes. Additional support was provided by the National Center for Research Resources, the General Clinical Research Center, and the National Institutes of Health.

The UCLA Department of Neurology encompasses more than a dozen research, clinical and teaching programs that cover brain mapping and neuroimaging, movement disorders, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, neurogenetics, nerve and muscle disorders, epilepsy, neuro-oncology, neurotology, neuropsychology, headaches and migraines, neurorehabilitation, and neurovascular disorders. The department ranks first among its peers nationwide in National Institutes of Health funding.

For more news, visit the UCLA Newsroom and follow us on Twitter.

Mark Wheeler | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucla.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Penn vet research identifies new target for taming Ebola
12.01.2017 | University of Pennsylvania

nachricht The strange double life of Dab2
10.01.2017 | University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle

17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Smart homes will “LISTEN” to your voice

17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>