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Pregnancy Timeline by SemestersFetal liver is producing blood cellsHead may position into pelvisBrain convolutions beginFull TermWhite fat begins to be madeWhite fat begins to be madeHead may position into pelvisImmune system beginningImmune system beginningPeriod of rapid brain growthBrain convolutions beginLungs begin to produce surfactantSensory brain waves begin to activateSensory brain waves begin to activateInner Ear Bones HardenBone marrow starts making blood cellsBone marrow starts making blood cellsBrown fat surrounds lymphatic systemFetal sexual organs visibleFinger and toe prints appearFinger and toe prints appearHeartbeat can be detectedHeartbeat can be detectedBasic Brain Structure in PlaceThe Appearance of SomitesFirst Detectable Brain WavesA Four Chambered HeartBeginning Cerebral HemispheresFemale Reproductive SystemEnd of Embryonic PeriodEnd of Embryonic PeriodFirst Thin Layer of Skin AppearsThird TrimesterSecond TrimesterFirst TrimesterFertilizationDevelopmental Timeline
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Home | Pregnancy Timeline | News Alerts |News Archive Sep 27, 2013

 

Astoundingly, for each 1-mL decrease in the volume of brain gray matter, the probability of
initiating substance use increased 69.6% to 83.6% depending on region of the brain decreased.

From the study:"Prenatal Cocaine Exposure and Gray Matter Volume in Adolescent Boys and Girls: Relationship to Substance Use Initiation"








 

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Fetal cocaine: Brain intact, but development off track

Animal studies show that exposure to cocaine in utero development causes numerous disruptions in normal brain development and negatively affects behavior from birth and into adulthood.

The results of the study, "Prenatal Cocaine Exposure and Gray Matter Volume in Adolescent Boys and Girls: Relationship to Substance Use Initiation" by Kenneth Rando, Tara M. Chaplin, Marc N. Potenza, Linda Mayes, and Rajita Sinha, appears in Biological Psychiatry.

For ethical reasons, similar studies in humans have been more limited but some research has shown that children exposed prenatally to cocaine have impairments in attention, control, stress, emotion regulation, and memory. Research also suggests that such children may be more predisposed to initiate substance use as they mature.

Since adolescence is the typical period in life when substance use begins, researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine, led by Dr. Rajita Sinha, conducted a study to evaluate the gray matter differences and likelihood of substance abuse in adolescents exposed to cocaine prenatally as compared to those who were not.

Dr. Sinha's laboratory recruited 42 adolescents between the ages of 14 and 17, exposed to cocaine in utero, who are part of a long-term cohort followed since birth. They also followed 21 non-cocaine-exposed adolescents for comparison. All of the participants underwent structural neuroimaging scans, answered questions about their use of any illegal drugs, in addition to submitting urine samples for toxicology analyses.


What they found was concerning, and exactly what they had hypothesized. Adolescents with prenatal cocaine exposure had lower gray matter volume in key brain regions involved with emotion, reward, memory, and executive function — compared with non-exposed kids.


Gray matter volume was also associated with initiation of substance use. Astoundingly, each 1-mL decrease in gray matter volume increased the probability of initiating substance use by 69.6% to 83.6% depending upon the region of the brain.


"This study may have an important message for pregnant women who use cocaine. It appears that we need to take a long-term perspective on the risks associated with prenatal exposure to cocaine: people whose brains may appear structurally typical at birth may develop abnormally. While the significance of these structural changes is not clear, they merit further study."

Dr. John Krystal, editor, Biological Psychiatry


Gray matter is the part of the nervous system that processes information, and deficits in gray matter are documented in many other disorders, including schizophrenia, anorexia, and childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.


It is important to note that, as part of the study criteria, these participants had no significant medical or mental illness and differed only in whether their mothers had used cocaine while pregnant.


"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. "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."

Abstract
Background
Studies of prenatal cocaine exposure have primarily examined childhood populations. Studying adolescents is especially important because adolescence is a time of changing motivations and initiation of substance use.

Methods
Using magnetic resonance imaging and whole-brain voxel-based morphometry, we assessed gray matter volume (GMV) differences in 42 prenatally cocaine exposed (PCE) and 21 noncocaine-exposed (NCE) adolescents, aged 14 to 17 years. Associations between GMV differences in significant clusters and the probability of substance use initiation were examined.

Results
PCE relative to NCE adolescents demonstrated three clusters of lower GMV involving a limbic and paralimbic (p < .001, family-wise error [FWE] corrected), superior frontal gyrus (p = .001, FWE corrected), and precuneus (p = .019, FWE corrected) cluster. GMVs in the superior frontal and precuneus clusters were associated with initiation of substance use. Each 1-mL decrease in GMV increased the probability of initiating substance use by 69.6% (p = .01) in the superior frontal cluster and 83.6% (p = .02) in the precuneus cluster.

Conclusions
PCE is associated with structural differences in cortical and limbic regions. Lower GMVs in frontal cortical and posterior regions are associated with substance use initiation and may represent biological risk markers for substance use.

The article is "Prenatal Cocaine Exposure and Gray Matter Volume in Adolescent Boys and Girls: Relationship to Substance Use Initiation" by Kenneth Rando, Tara M. Chaplin, Marc N. Potenza, Linda Mayes, and Rajita Sinha (doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.04.030). The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 74, Issue 7 (October 1, 2013), published by Elsevier.

The authors' affiliations, and disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available in the article.

John H. Krystal, M.D., is Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine and a research psychiatrist at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. His disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available here.

About Biological Psychiatry
Biological Psychiatry is the official journal of the Society of Biological Psychiatry, whose purpose is to promote excellence in scientific research and education in fields that investigate the nature, causes, mechanisms and treatments of disorders of thought, emotion, or behavior. In accord with this mission, this peer-reviewed, rapid-publication, international journal publishes both basic and clinical contributions from all disciplines and research areas relevant to the pathophysiology and treatment of major psychiatric disorders.

The journal publishes novel results of original research which represent an important new lead or significant impact on the field, particularly those addressing genetic and environmental risk factors, neural circuitry and neurochemistry, and important new therapeutic approaches. Reviews and commentaries that focus on topics of current research and interest are also encouraged.

Biological Psychiatry is one of the most selective and highly cited journals in the field of psychiatric neuroscience. It is ranked 4th out of 135 Psychiatry titles and 13th out of 251 Neurosciences titles in the Journal Citations Reports® published by Thomson Reuters. The 2012 Impact Factor score for Biological Psychiatry is 9.247.

Original press releas: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-09/e-cei092513.php