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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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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
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