Some positive findings in new study on cocaine exposed children

A study in the May 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests that prenatal cocaine exposure was not associated with lower full scale IQ scores, or verbal or performance IQ scores at age 4 years. However, the study also found that prenatal cocaine exposure was associated with specific cognitive impairments and a lower likelihood of an above average IQ, but that home environments could make a difference for better outcomes for some children.

"Cocaine readily crosses the placental and fetal brain barriers and has a direct effect on the developing fetal brain " the authors provide as background information in the article. The authors add that "a number of methodologically sound studies have found a relationship between fetal cocaine exposure and negative child developmental outcomes in the first years of life, although others have not."

In this study, Lynn T. Singer, Ph.D., from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and colleagues assessed the effects of prenatal cocaine exposure and the quality of the caregiving environment on cognitive outcomes. The participants included 376 children (190 cocaine-exposed and 186 non-exposed) from a high-risk population who were enrolled in a longitudinal study from birth (September 1994 June 1996). They were screened for drug exposure as infants, assessed at 6, 12 and 24 months of age and then tested at 4 years old for cognitive developments.

The researchers found that prenatal cocaine exposure was not related to lower full-scale IQ scores (cocaine exposed 80.7 vs. nonexposed 82.9), summary verbal (cocaine exposed 79.9 vs. nonexposed 81.9) or performance IQ measures (cocaine exposed 85.5 vs. nonexposed 87.5) at age 4 years. "However, there were specific effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on several subscales, with cocaine-exposed children having lower information, arithmetic, and object assembly scores than nonexposed children," the researchers report. "Pre

Contact: George Stamatis
Case Western Reserve University

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