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Neuroimage. 2007 Jul 15;36(4):1331-44. Epub 2007 Apr 25.

Volumetric cerebral characteristics of children exposed to opiates and other substances in utero.

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Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, PoB 1094 Blindern, 0317 Oslo, Norway.

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  • Neuroimage. 2008 Jul 15;41(4):1514-6.


Morphometric cerebral characteristics were studied in children with prenatal poly-substance exposure (n=14) compared to controls (n=14) without such exposure. Ten of the substance-exposed children were born to mothers who used opiates (heroin) throughout the pregnancy. Groups were compared across 16 brain measures: cortical gray matter, cerebral white matter, hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, accumbens area, caudate, putamen, pallidum, brainstem, cerebellar cortex, cerebellar white matter, lateral ventricles, inferior lateral ventricles, and the 3rd and 4th ventricles. In addition, continuous measurement of thickness across the entire cortical mantle was performed. Volumetric characteristics were correlated with ability and questionnaire assessments 2 years prior to scan. Compared to controls, the substance-exposed children had smaller intracranial and brain volumes, including smaller cerebral cortex, amygdala, accumbens area, putamen, pallidum, brainstem, cerebellar cortex, cerebellar white matter, and inferior lateral ventricles, and thinner cortex of the right anterior cingulate and lateral orbitofrontal cortex. Pallidum and putamen appeared especially reduced in the subgroup exposed to opiates. Only volumes of the right anterior cingulate, the right lateral orbitofrontal cortex and the accumbens area, showed some association with ability and questionnaire measures. The sample studied is rare and hence small, so conclusions cannot be drawn with certainty. Morphometric group differences were observed, but associations with previous behavioral assessment were generally weak. Some of the volumetric differences, particularly thinner cortex in part of the right lateral orbitofrontal cortex, may be moderately involved in cognitive and behavioral difficulties more frequently experienced by opiate and poly-substance-exposed children.

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