Sunday, July 23, 2006

Clinic Notes: Prenatal Exposure to Recreational Drugs

Prenatal exposure to recreational drugs causes a host of physical and neuropsychological problems in children. Some disorders, such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, are stereotypical while exposure to other drugs cause problem behaviors, which are more diverse. Investigative techniques used to study the precise neurological mechanisms involved in prenatal exposure to various drugs are too invasive to use with children as subjects so it is necessary to turn to animal models. The research is limited here, but we do know that prenatal exposure to alcohol produces abnormal spines on the dendrites of the neuron and reduces neural plasticity. In other words, it is more difficult for the neural circuits underlying various neurological functions to form when alcohol has been ingested.

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