Infants exposed to drugs prenatally had alterations in their brains’ functional organization, a new study shows.
A total of 88 such infants were born to mothers who had used either cocaine or other drugs, such as nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, and antidepressants, during pregnancy. Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rsfMRI) brain scans found that all 88 infants had connectivity disruptions within the amygdala-frontal, insula-frontal, and insula-sensorimotor circuits, reported investigators at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Utah, Salt Lake City.
In the infants with prenatal cocaine exposure, an additional alteration was found but within the amygdala-prefrontal network. Disruption of this circuit might explain why arousal dysregulation is seen in infants with prenatal exposure to cocaine, the investigators said in a statement from UNC Health Care.
“Overall, this study revealed that rsfMRI in infants may play a pivotal role in the search for objective biomarkers for the identification of risks and guidance of early intervention to improve later behavioral outcomes,” said the statement.
Find the full study in the Journal of Neuroscience ( doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4333-14.2015 ).