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Brain Res Dev Brain Res. 2003 Dec 30;147(1-2):47-57.

Does drug abuse beget drug abuse? Behavioral analysis of addiction liability in animal models of prenatal drug exposure.

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Laboratory of Molecular and Developmental Neuroscience, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital East, CNY-149, Room 2508 149 13th Street, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.


Prenatal exposure to drugs of abuse is the single largest preventable cause of developmental compromise of American children today. In the clinical population, it is difficult to determine the independent effects of gestational exposure to a single drug on brain development, in part due to the confounding effects of additional risk factors that are encountered in the substance-abusing population. The enormous clinical and societal problem of gestational toxicity of drugs of abuse, both legal and illegal, has driven the need to develop and investigate animal models of gestational drug exposure in which these variables can be controlled. More specifically, as clinical data are gathered suggesting an increased liability to substance abuse among children of drug-abusing mothers, a mechanistic understanding of the lasting effects of early drug exposure on the developing brain and the behavioral repertoire of the developing animal is crucial. In this review we summarize experimental animal research that investigates the role of drug exposure in utero on the functional development of specific brain circuits that are involved in the reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse, and on the behaviors that are mediated by these brain reward systems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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