Prenatal cocaine exposure affects cognitive development in middle childhood

May 2nd, 2009 - 12:34 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 2 (ANI): Cocaine exposure before birth could compromise neurocognitive development among kids during middle childhood, according to researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).

The researchers revealed that heavier intrauterine cocaine exposure (IUCE) is linked with mild compromise on selective areas of neurocognitive development during middle childhood.

For the study, researchers examined if the level of IUCE or the interaction between IUCE and contextual variables was related during middle childhood to executive functioning as was measured by two neuropsychological assessments.

The Stroop Color-Word Test measures verbal inhibitory control while the Rey Osterrieth Organizational score evaluates skills such as planning, organization and perception.

The scientists classified subjects as unexposed, lighter, or heavier IUCE by positive maternal reports and/or biological assay.

Then, researchers who did not know the children’s history or group status examined 143 children at 9 and 11 years of age (74 with IUCE and 69 demographically similar children without IUCE).

When controlled for contextual variables including intrauterine exposures to other licit and illicit substances, level of IUCE was not found to be significantly associated with either assessment scores.

However, the heavier cocaine-exposed group of children had significantly lower Stroop scores compared to the combined lighter/unexposed group.

“These research findings were present even in the absence of major cognitive differences in the same cohort as previously measured by standardized instruments in late infancy and early childhood,” said lead author Ruth Rose-Jacobs, Sc.D., assistant professor and research scientist at BUSM.

He added: “The emergence of these subtle IUCE effects suggests the possibility of neurocognitive “sleeper effects” of IUCE, which may become more apparent with the greater functional and cognitive demands of late middle childhood and preadolescence.”

Besides, researchers stated that further longitudinal assessment would help to clarify whether the IUCE group differences observed in this study are due to immaturity, delays in development, or potentially persistent deficits.

The study appears in the latest issue of Neurotoxicology and Teratology. (ANI)

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