Volumetric MRI Study of Brain in Children with Intrauterine Exposure to Cocaine, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Marijuana

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Children’s Hospital Boston

Prenatal exposure to drugs, alcohol and tobacco continues to affect the brain into early adolescence, say researchers who used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to view the brains of children ages 10 to 14 whose mothers used one or more of those substances when pregnant. They found the children had reduced brain volume and thin gray matter; the report does not discuss the behavioral consequences.

The study is purportedly the first to show the long-term effects on the brain of prenatal cocaine, cigarette and alcohol exposure. It did not include children diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome. More than 1 million babies born annually have been exposed to drug, alcohol or tobacco in utero. The study appears in the April issue of Pediatrics. $12, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/121/4/741. Free summary at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/121/4/741.