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UCLA Imaging Study Vividly Shows Pattern of Brain Damage in Methamphetamine Abusers

Contact: Dr. Paul Thompson (310)206-2101 thompson@loni.ucla.edu, or
Dr. Edythe London elondon@mednet.ucla.edu

Click to hear Audio Broadcast (.MP3, 1MB, 4 minutes)

[Transcript of Interview, BBC World Service]

New York Times (July 20, 2004) [Graphic]

Brain Tissue Loss in Methamphetamine Abusers
[High Resolution JPEG Image] [High-Resolution TIFF Image] [Very High-Resolution JPEG Image, white background] [black background]
This image shows the pattern of brain tissue loss in methamphetamine users, relative to healthy adults, mapped using MRI scans. Brain regions involved in drug craving, emotion and reward, and hippocampal brain regions involved in learning and memory, lose up to 10% of their tissue. Red colors denote brain regions with greatest tissue loss, blue colors regions that remain relatively intact. Hippocampal volume reductions are linked with poorer memory performance in the methamphetamine users. At the same time, a 7% volume increase occurs in the brain's white matter, suggesting an inflammatory response to chronic drug use.

USA Today (July 21, 2004) Taipei Times (July 20, 2004) Spartanburg Herald, South Carolina (July 20, 2004) Toronto Star, Canada (July 24, 2004) Join Together (July 22, 2004) Washington Blade, DC (July 23, 2004) Sun Herald, Mississippi (July 22, 2004) Arizona Central, AZ (July 22, 2004) Eric Chudler (July 29, 2004) Omaha World Herald (July 25, 2004)
Allure Magazine article (Aug. 2008; 2MB, .pdf)
TV News Report (Dec. 12, 2004; 9 MB, Quicktime Movie format, .mov)


A new UCLA Neuroscience imaging study shows for the first time the selective pattern of destruction to the brain's memory, emotion and reward systems experienced by chronic methamphetamine users. Color, three-dimensional visualizations created from magnetic resonance images vividly show the damage. The study reveals the mechanism by which drug abuse damages the brain and suggests potential targets for therapy in recovering drug users. The research appears in the June 30 online edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of Neuroscience. Authors Dr. Paul Thompson, associate professor of neurology, and Dr. Edythe London, professor at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, are available for interviews.

A copy of the full study is available here (PDF).

Other graphics related to the study can be found at http://www.loni.ucla.edu/~thompson/MA/ma.html.

Journal of Neuroscience Article:

[1] Paul M. Thompson, Kiralee M. Hayashi, Sara L. Simon, Jennifer A. Geaga, Michael S. Hong, Yihong Sui, Jessica Y. Lee, Arthur W. Toga, Walter Ling, Edythe D. London (2004). Structural Abnormalities in the Brains of Human Subjects who Use Methamphetamine, Journal of Neuroscience, 24(26):6028-6036, June 30, 2004. [PDF (643 KB)]

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    Contact Information

  • Mail:

    Paul Thompson, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor of Neurology
    UCLA Lab of Neuro-Imaging and Brain Mapping Division
    Dept. Neurology and Brain Research Institute
    4238 Reed Neurology, UCLA Medical Center
    710 Westwood Plaza
    Westwood, Los Angeles CA 90095-1769, USA.

  • E-mail: thompson@loni.ucla.edu
  • Tel: (310)206-2101
  • Fax: (310)206-5518