Prenatal cocaine exposure impacts cognition in subtle ways

March, 2010

A review of 32 major studies of school-age children reveals that the consequences of prenatal exposure to cocaine for the brain are less sweeping than feared, but the specific areas affected such as sustained attention and self-regulated behavior could lead to serious problems later in life.

When a pregnant woman uses cocaine, it can interrupt the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the baby, putting such children at risk for premature birth, low birth weight and many other problems. However a new review of 32 major studies of school-age children reveals that the consequences for the brain are less sweeping than feared. Although many of the children did have low IQ and poor academic and language achievement, this seems to be related more to the home environment. But direct effects of cocaine exposure significantly affected children in specific areas such as sustained attention and self-regulated behavior — areas which could lead to serious problems later in life.

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