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Abnormal brain activation during working memory in children with prenatal exposure to drugs of abuse: The effects of methamphetamine, alcohol, and polydrug exposure

Department of Neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-7332, USA.
NeuroImage (Impact Factor: 6.13). 10/2010; 54(4):3067-75. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.10.072
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Structural and metabolic abnormalities in fronto-striatal structures have been reported in children with prenatal methamphetamine (MA) exposure. The current study was designed to quantify functional alterations to the fronto-striatal circuit in children with prenatal MA exposure using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Because many women who use MA during pregnancy also use alcohol, a known teratogen, we examined 50 children (age range 7-15), 19 with prenatal MA exposure, 15 of whom had concomitant prenatal alcohol exposure (the MAA group), 13 with heavy prenatal alcohol but no MA exposure (ALC group), and 18 unexposed controls (CON group). We hypothesized that MA exposed children would demonstrate abnormal brain activation during a visuospatial working memory (WM) "N-Back" task. As predicted, the MAA group showed less activation than the CON group in many brain areas, including the striatum and frontal lobe in the left hemisphere. The ALC group showed less activation than the MAA group in several regions, including the right striatum. We found an inverse correlation between performance and activity in the striatum in both the CON and MAA groups. However, this relationship was significant in the caudate of the CON group but not the MAA group, and in the putamen of the MAA group but not the CON group. These findings suggest that structural damage in the fronto-striatal circuit after prenatal MA exposure leads to decreased recruitment of this circuit during a WM challenge, and raise the possibility that a rewiring of cortico-striatal networks may occur in children with prenatal MA exposure.

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