At 2 years, cocaine babies suffer cognitive development effects

CLEVELAND - Scientists know the effects of cocaine on the adult brain and cardiovascular systems. Now there is a growing body of research documenting the effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on infants, which is raising public health concerns about the long-term cognitive and developmental outcomes for these children.

A study published by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, MetroHealth Medical Center, and University Hospitals of Cleveland researchers in the April 17 issue of the "Journal of the American Medical Association," Cognitive and Motor Outcomes of Cocaine-Exposed Infants, looks at how prenatal cocaine exposure affects child developmental outcomes. The study was conducted by Lynn T. Singer, Ph.D., Robert Arendt, Ph.D., Sonia Minnes, Ph.D., Ann Salvator, M.S., and H. Lester Kirchner, Ph.D., all of the CWRU School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics; Kathleen Farkas, Ph.D., CWRU Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences; and Robert Kliegman, M.D., Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wis.

CWRU researchers followed 415 cocaine-exposed infants born at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland to determine how prenatal cocaine exposure affects child developmental outcomes. They were compared to non-exposed infants on cognitive and motor development until age 2. What they found, according to Singer, was that prenatal cocaine exposure does affect a childs cognitive development, but not motor development. However, tobacco exposure had negative effects on motor development.

There have been previous studies in this area, but their findings are contradictory. While some studies have found generalized developmental delays in cocaine-exposed infants, other studies have not demonstrated differences or found only subtle cognitive effects. Those studies, CWRU researchers say, are flawed for several reasons, including high dropout rates, small sample sizes, ignored negative environmental factors, lack of biologic measures revealin

Contact: George Stamatis
Case Western Reserve University

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