We assessed the effects of low dose methamphetamine treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in rats by employing MRI, immunohistology, and neurological functional tests. Young male Wistar rats were subjected to TBI using the controlled cortical impact model. The treated rats (n = 10) received an intravenous (iv) bolus dose of 0.42 mg/kg of methamphetamine at eight hours after the TBI followed by continuous iv infusion for 24 hrs. The control rats (n = 10) received the same volume of saline using the same protocol. MRI scans, including T2-weighted imaging (T2WI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), were performed one day prior to TBI, and at 1 and 3 days post TBI, and then weekly for 6 weeks. The lesion volumes of TBI damaged cerebral tissue were demarcated by elevated values in T2 maps and were histologically identified by hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining. The fractional anisotropy (FA) values within regions-of-interest (ROI) were measured in FA maps deduced from DTI, and were directly compared with Bielschowsky’s silver and Luxol fast blue (BLFB) immunohistological staining. No therapeutic effect on lesion volumes was detected during 6 weeks after TBI. However, treatment significantly increased FA values in the recovery ROI compared with the control group at 5 and 6 weeks after TBI. Myelinated axons histologically measured using BLFB were significantly increased (p,0.001) in the treated group (25.8461.41%) compared with the control group (17.0562.95%). Significant correlations were detected between FA and BLFB measures in the recovery ROI (R = 0.54, p,0.02). Methamphetamine treatment significantly reduced modified neurological severity scores from 2 to 6 weeks (p,0.05) and foot-fault errors from 3 days to 6 weeks (p,0.05) after TBI. Thus, the FA data suggest that methamphetamine treatment improves white matter reorganization from 5 to 6 weeks after TBI in rats compared with saline treatment, which may contribute to the observed functional recovery.
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