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Prenatal cocaine exposure and prolonged focus attention. Poor infant information processing ability or precocious maturation of attentional systems?

Authors
Type
Published Article
Journal
Developmental Neuroscience
0378-5866
Publisher
S. Karger AG
Publication Date
Volume
31
Issue
1-2
Pages
149–158
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1159/000207502
PMID: 19372695
Source
Medline

Abstract

In experimental models, prenatal cocaine exposure has been found to perturb monoaminergic development of systems implicated in modulating attention. To determine whether prenatal cocaine exposure affects infant attention, we assessed visual recognition memory and focused attention during free play. We enrolled at birth 380 infants, 113 cocaine exposed, using multiple biomarkers to assess drug exposure. Behavior was videotaped and coded off-line for sustained looking time (i.e. focused attention), banging and intrusion. Prenatal cocaine exposure was not associated with visual recognition memory, but was significantly associated with longer sustained looking times (average focused attention) at ages 6 months (p = 0.02) and 12 months (p = 0.04) in analyses that adjusted for variables, including maternal intelligence, education, depressive scores and other exposures (alcohol, tobacco and marijuana). Cocaine-exposed infants at age 12 months also spent significantly less time in banging activity (p = 0.02) after adjusting for confounding variables. This finding was not explained through cocaine effects on motor development, neurological findings or time spent in focused attention. Prenatal cocaine exposure was significantly associated with longer periods of sustained looking or focused attention in infancy, a finding that could interpreted as a measure of poor processing efficiency, or alternatively as precocious maturation of attentional systems. Either interpretation has implications for later cognitive development. Lower banging activity among cocaine exposed was not explained through cocaine effects on motor development or neurological findings, suggesting that activity level itself is diminished in these infants. Whether focused attention findings impact long term development awaits further study.

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