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Child Neuropsychol. 2007 May;13(3):205-18.

Visuospatial working memory in school-aged children exposed in utero to cocaine.

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Yale Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.



Among the neurocognitive impairments reported as associated with prenatal cocaine exposure, slower response time, and less efficient learning in school-aged children are common to findings from several laboratories. This study presents performance data on a spatial working memory task in 75 prenatally cocaine exposed (CE) and 55 nondrug-exposed (NDE) 8- to 10-year-old children.


Children were administered a novel neuropsychological measure of immediate- and short-term memory for visuospatial information, the Groton Maze Learning Test (GMLT), a computer-based hidden maze learning test that consists of a "timed chase test" (a simple measure of visuomotor speed), eight learning trials followed by a delayed recall trial after an 8-minute delay and a reverse learning trial. Performance is expressed as correct moves per second and number of errors per trial.


Across all trials, the cocaine-exposed group showed significantly slower correct moves per second and made significantly more errors. There were no significant main effects for amounts of alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana exposure. After an 8-minute delay and compared to the eighth trial, cocaine-exposed children showed less consolidation in learning compared to nonexposed children. When asked to complete the maze in reverse, cocaine-exposed children showed a greater decrement in performance (decreased correct moves per second and increased errors) compared to the eighth learning trial.


Children exposed in utero to cocaine exhibit a possible impairment in procedural learning and diminished efficiency in creating and accessing an internal spatial map to master the hidden maze.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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