Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Using Cocaine During Pregnancy May Damage Developing Fetuses, Causing Lifelong Learning Disabilities

Date:
February 19, 2002
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
Taking cocaine during pregnancy causes possibly permanent changes in an area of the brain that governs short term memory – leading to symptoms that are very much like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Yale researchers have found in two recent studies.

New Haven, Conn. – Taking cocaine during pregnancy causes possibly permanent changes in an area of the brain that governs short term memory – leading to symptoms that are very much like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Yale researchers have found in two recent studies.

The research team in the Neuropsychopharmacology Laboratory at Yale School of Medicine found that prenatal exposure to cocaine leads to over-stimulation of the medical prefrontal cortex of the brain in the offspring, and a dramatic impairment in learning.

"Children exposed to cocaine in the womb may have a problem with excitable neurons in part of the brain that helps control attention and memory," said Bret Morrow, associate research scientist, associate clinical professor and lead author of both studies. "Potentially, this excitable prefrontal cortex may be the basis of the learning deficits in these children."

"The use of cocaine among women of childbearing age is alarmingly high," he added. "When a pregnant woman uses cocaine she also exposes her fetus to the drug. Studies have shown that these cocaine exposed children have increased occurrence of symptoms similar to those seen with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – increased distractibility, impulsivity and select learning deficits. Based on our animal studies, we are concerned the effects could very well be lifelong in humans."

The first study published in the February issue of Behavioral Brain Research involved administering cocaine to pregnant rats and then assessing short term memory in the offspring when they were adolescents and adults.

The test animals were placed in a cage with two identical objects. They were then removed from the cage for a brief interval, and then put back in with one of the former objects and a second new object. If the animal explored the new object preferentially, that was taken as evidence that the animal remembered the first object. The test is similar to one used with human subjects.

"Those animals exposed to cocaine prenatally did very poorly on these tests," Morrow said.

The second paper published in the February issue of Neuropsychopharmacology focuses on the theory that the frontal and prefrontal cortex, which are involved in short term memory, are in some way altered when fetuses are exposed to cocaine.

The researchers examined the brains of animals exposed to cocaine in the womb and found that the medial prefrontal cortex showed dramatic activation not seen in other cortical regions. The product of a gene, FOS, was used to measure this activation. Fos, a protein, is made in an excited neuron and then it is used to turn on other genes. These secondary genes can change the way a neuron responds to a stimulus the next time it occurs.

"This is thought to be one mechanism by which a neuron ‘learns,’" Morrow said. "We believe that the excess activation in the prefrontal cortex plays an important role in the poor short term memory in these."

He said the studies were another step toward understanding and treating the long-lasting effects on the circuitry of the brain that occurs after exposure to cocaine at a critical stage in development.

"Essentially, the brain appears to become re-programmed in a subtle way, causing it to respond abnormally to routine events," Morrow said.

Co-authors on both studies were John Elsworth, senior research scientist in psychiatry and pharmacology, and Robert Roth, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Yale University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Yale University. "Using Cocaine During Pregnancy May Damage Developing Fetuses, Causing Lifelong Learning Disabilities." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 February 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/02/020219075450.htm>.
Yale University. (2002, February 19). Using Cocaine During Pregnancy May Damage Developing Fetuses, Causing Lifelong Learning Disabilities. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/02/020219075450.htm
Yale University. "Using Cocaine During Pregnancy May Damage Developing Fetuses, Causing Lifelong Learning Disabilities." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/02/020219075450.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

App Teaches Kindergarteners to Code

App Teaches Kindergarteners to Code

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) They can't all read yet, but soon kindergarteners may be able to create basic computer code. Researchers in Massachusetts developed an app that teaches young kids a simple computer programming language. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Research from Washington University suggest people with conscientious spouses have greater career success. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Researchers say certain markers in the blood can predict risk of psychosis later in the life. The test can aid in early treatment for the condition. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins