Individuals who are methamphetamine (Meth) dependent tend to perform worse on cognitive tests than healthy comparison individuals. However, not all Meth-dependent individuals display cognitive deficits;while some have considerable cognitive problems, others perform comparably to healthy individuals who do not abuse drugs. One possible source of variability in cognitive function in Meth-dependent individuals may lie in the genetic susceptibility to the development of neurotoxicity from Meth use. With other factors held constant, individuals who are genetically vulnerable to Meth-induced neurotoxicity would be expected to perform worse on cognitive tests than those who are not genetically vulnerable. One possible genetic candidate which may moderate neurotoxicity in Meth abuse is the gene which codes for the enzyme Cytochrome P450, family 2, subfamily D, polypeptide 6 (CYP2D6). CYP2D6 is the primary enzyme to catalyze Meth metabolism by hydroxylation and demethylation. In a promising preliminary study, Cherner and colleagues (2010) found that Meth-dependent participants who were extensive metabolizers of Meth based on CYP2D6 genotype performed significantly worse on several cognitive tests than those who were intermediate or poor metabolizers. The authors reasoned that, because extensive metabolizers had the worst cognitive performance, neurotoxicity from Meth dependence may be preferentially related to the metabolic byproducts of Meth (e.g., 4- hydroxymethamphetamine), rather than the parent compound itself. However, this study did not measure any other correlates of neurotoxicity. To address this gap in the literature, we propose to measure the brain structure of Meth-dependent individuals who possess different functional variants of the CYP2D6 gene, using structural MRI. Assuming that CYP2D6 extensive metabolizers experience more neurotoxicity than intermediate or poor metabolizers, we hypothesize that extensive metabolizers will be more likely than intermediate/poor metabolizers to exhibit brain abnormalities which have been theorized to reflect Meth- neurotoxicity, including gray matter volume deficits and enlargement of striatal structures, as well as lower estimates of white-matter fiber organization. In addition, we will administer a battery of cognitive tests and attempt to replicate the findings of Cherner et al. (2010). We presently have a sample of Meth-dependent participants with CYP2D6 genotype (extensive metabolizers N = 30;intermediate/poor metabolizers N = 21;and 6 subjects yet to be genotyped) and structural MRI scans. The proposed work aims to add 24 participants to this dataset to test whether functional variants of CYP2D6 influence brain structure and cognitive performance. Successful completion of this research would identify a risk factor for cognitive dysfunction and brain abnormalities in Meth dependence, as well as a potential moderator of Meth-induced neurotoxicity.

Public Health Relevance

Cytochrome P450, family 2, subfamily D, polypeptide 6 (CYP2D6) is one of the primary enzymes responsible for methamphetamine metabolism, and variants of the CYP2D6 gene have been associated with cognitive dysfunction in methamphetamine-dependent individuals. We seek to test the hypothesis that variants of the CYP2D6 gene may also be differentially related to brain structure in methamphetamine-dependent participants. Successful completion of this research may implicate a risk factor for neurotoxicity in methamphetamine dependence.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Pathophysiological Basis of Mental Disorders and Addictions Study Section (PMDA)
Program Officer
Bjork, James M
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of California Los Angeles
Schools of Medicine
Los Angeles
United States
Zip Code
Dean, Andy C; Morales, Angelica M; Hellemann, Gerhard et al. (2018) Cognitive deficit in methamphetamine users relative to childhood academic performance: link to cortical thickness. Neuropsychopharmacology 43:1745-1752
Kohno, M; Okita, K; Morales, A M et al. (2016) Midbrain functional connectivity and ventral striatal dopamine D2-type receptors: link to impulsivity in methamphetamine users. Mol Psychiatry 21:1554-1560
Jones, Hannah W; Dean, Andy C; Price, Kimberly A et al. (2016) Increased self-reported impulsivity in methamphetamine users maintaining drug abstinence. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse 42:500-506
Okita, Kyoji; Ghahremani, Dara G; Payer, Doris E et al. (2016) Emotion dysregulation and amygdala dopamine D2-type receptor availability in methamphetamine users. Drug Alcohol Depend 161:163-70
Dean, Andy C; Kohno, Milky; Morales, Angelica M et al. (2015) Denial in methamphetamine users: Associations with cognition and functional connectivity in brain. Drug Alcohol Depend 151:84-91