Cognitive deficit in methamphetamine users relative to childhood academic performance: Link to cortical thickness

Andy C. Dean, Angelica M. Morales, Gerhard Hellemann, Edythe D. London

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Individuals with cognitive problems may be predisposed to develop substance use disorders; therefore, differences in cognitive function between methamphetamine users and control participants may be attributable to premorbid factors rather than methamphetamine use. The goal of this study was to clarify the extent to which this is the case. Childhood academic transcripts were obtained for 37 methamphetamine-dependent adults and 41 control participants of similar educational level and premorbid IQ. Each participant completed a comprehensive cognitive battery and received a structural magnetic resonance imaging scan. Data from control participants and linear regression were used to develop a normative model to describe the relationship between childhood academic performance and scores on the cognitive battery. Using this model, cognitive performance of methamphetamine users was predicted from their premorbid academic scores. Results indicated that methamphetamine users' childhood grade point average was significantly lower than that of the control group (p < 0.05). Further, methamphetamine users' overall cognitive performance was lower than was predicted from their grade point average prior to methamphetamine use (p = 0.001), with specific deficits in attention/concentration and memory (ps < 0.01). Memory deficits were associated with lower whole-brain cortical thickness (p < 0.05). Thus, in addition to having an apparent premorbid weakness in cognition, methamphetamine users exhibit subsequent cognitive function that is significantly lower than premorbid estimates would predict. The results support the view that chronic methamphetamine use causes a decline in cognition and/or a failure to develop normative cognitive abilities, although aside from methamphetamine use per se, other drug use and unidentified factors likely contribute to the observed effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1745-1752
Number of pages8
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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