Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mothers' Prenatal Cocaine Use Lowers Teens' Brain Volume, Study Finds

Adolescents exposed in the womb to cocaine have a lower volume of gray matter in the brain and show an increased likelihood of initiating substance use themselves, according to a study led by Rajita Sinha, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine. Sinha and colleagues reported on data from 42 teenagers aged 14 to 17, part of a larger group they have followed since birth. Another 21 adolescents who had not been exposed to cocaine prenatally served as controls.

“The adolescents with prenatal cocaine exposure had lower gray matter volume in key brain regions involved in emotion, reward, memory, and executive function, compared with non-exposed adolescents,” said the researchers in the October 1 Biological Psychiatry. Decreased gray matter volume was also associated with an increased probability of starting substance use.

“Thus, for the first time in children we see how mothers’ in-utero cocaine use may translate to brain changes in the offspring that impact cognition, mood, and health of the affected offspring later in life,” said Sinha in a statement. “One can speculate that in the future, with additional validation, such specific brain alterations may serve as biomarkers of risk that can be targeted to prevent drug use and abuse.”

For more in Psychiatric News about the effects of prenatal substance use, see the article “How Do Abused Drugs Affect Fetus, Newborn?”

(Image: Evdokimov Maxim/


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