Previous studies revealed microstructural abnormalities in prefrontal white matter and corpus callosum of long-term abstinent chronic methamphetamine abusers. In view of the importance of the early abstinence period in treatment retention, we compared 23 methamphetamine-dependent subjects abstinent from methamphetamine for 7–13 days with 18 healthy comparison subjects. As certain metabolic changes in the brain first manifest after early abstinence from methamphetamine, it is also possible that microstructural white-matter abnormalities are not yet present during early abstinence.
Using diffusion tensor imaging at 1.5 T, fractional anisotropy (FA) was measured in prefrontal white matter at four inferior–superior levels parallel to the anterior commissure–posterior commissure (AC–PC) plane. We also sampled FA in the corpus callosum at the midline and at eight bilateral, fiber-tract sites in other regions implicated in effects of methamphetamine.
The methamphetamine group exhibited lower FA in right prefrontal white matter above the AC–PC plane (11.9% lower; p = 0.007), in midline genu corpus callosum (3.9%; p = 0.019), in left and right midcaudal superior corona radiata (11.0% in both hemispheres, p’s = 0.020 and 0.016, respectively), and in right perforant fibers (7.3%; p = 0.025). FA in left midcaudal superior corona radiata was correlated with depressive and generalized psychiatric symptoms within the methamphetamine group.
The findings support the idea that methamphetamine abuse produces microstructural abnormalities in white matter underlying and interconnecting prefrontal cortices and hippocampal formation. These effects are already present during the first weeks of abstinence from methamphetamine and are linked to psychiatric symptoms assessed during this period.