Background: The adolescent brain may be susceptible to the influences of illicit drug use. While compensatory network reorganization is a unique developmental characteristic that may restore several brain disorders, its association with methamphetamine (MA) use-induced damage during adolescence is unclear.
Methods: Using independent component (IC) analysis on structural magnetic resonance imaging data, spatially ICs described as morphometric networks were extracted to examine the effects of MA use on gray matter (GM) volumes and network module connectivity in adolescents (51 MA users v. 60 controls) and adults (54 MA users v. 60 controls).
Results: MA use was related to significant GM volume reductions in the default mode, cognitive control, salience, limbic, sensory and visual network modules in adolescents. GM volumes were also reduced in the limbic and visual network modules of the adult MA group as compared to the adult control group. Differential patterns of structural connectivity between the basal ganglia (BG) and network modules were found between the adolescent and adult MA groups. Specifically, adult MA users exhibited significantly reduced connectivity of the BG with the default network modules compared to control adults, while adolescent MA users, despite the greater extent of network GM volume reductions, did not show alterations in network connectivity relative to control adolescents.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest the potential of compensatory network reorganization in adolescent brains in response to MA use. The developmental characteristic to compensate for MA-induced brain damage can be considered as an age-specific therapeutic target for adolescent MA users.
Keywords: Addiction; adolescents; methamphetamine; structural network organization.