The research reported in the latest issue of American Journal of Psychiatry had said that both Methamphetamine Abuse and HIV Infection can cause significant changes in the brain structures that can later affect the cognitive functions like learning new things, problem solving, paying attention to something and processing information. The results are more if both the conditions happen simultaneously.
Methamphetamine abuse is linked with HIV, hepatitis C, and other sexually transmitted diseases, not only by the use of contaminated injection equipment, but also due to increased risky sexual behaviors. These findings show that methamphetamine abuse and HIV infection each cause significant changes in the volume of brain gray matter structures and cognitive function.
Scientists from University of California-San Diego had conducted brain scans to analyze structural volume changes in 103 adults divided among four populations: methamphetamine abusers who were HIV-positive; methamphetamine abusers who were HIV-negative; non-abusers who were HIV-positive; and non-abusers who were HIV-negative. They also assessed the ability to think and reason using a detailed battery of tests that examined speed of information processing, attention/working memory, learning and delayed recall, abstraction/executive functioning, verbal fluency, and motor functioning.
They observed that methamphetamine abuse is associated with increases in the volume of the brain's parietal cortex (which helps people to understand and pay attention to what's going on around them) and basal ganglia (linked to motor function and motivation). HIV infection is associated with prominent volume losses in the cerebral cortex (involved in higher thought, reasoning, and memory), basal ganglia, and hippocampus (involved in memory and learning).
In methamphetamine abusers who are also HIV-positive, decreased volumes are correlated with increased cognitive impairment in one brain region, the hippocampus.
The changes seen in brain structures could be the result of inflammation in the brain and/or compensatory changes associated with methamphetamine toxicity.