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Cocaine and the fetus

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2002 - Spring

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When pregnant women use cocaine, their offspring may suffer permanent harm to an area of the brain that governs short-term memory, leading to learning impairments and symptoms resembling attention deficit disorder. According to two recent animal studies by Yale scientists Bret A. Morrow, Ph.D., John D. Elsworth, Ph.D., and Robert H. Roth, Ph.D., the effects are manifest in the prefrontal cortex. “Children exposed to cocaine in the womb may have a problem inhibiting excitable neurons in the part of the brain that helps control attention and memory,” said Morrow, associate research scientist, associate clinical professor and lead author of both studies, published in February and March in the journals Behavioral Brain Research and Neuropsychopharmacology, respectively.