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Nat Rev Neurosci. 2009 Apr;10(4):303-12. doi: 10.1038/nrn2598. Epub 2009 Mar 11.

Prenatal exposure to drugs: effects on brain development and implications for policy and education.

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Department of Pharmacology, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37232, USA.


The effects of prenatal exposure to drugs on brain development are complex and are modulated by the timing, dose and route of drug exposure. It is difficult to assess these effects in clinical cohorts as these are beset with problems such as multiple exposures and difficulties in documenting use patterns. This can lead to misinterpretation of research findings by the general public, the media and policy makers, who may mistakenly assume that the legal status of a drug correlates with its biological impact on fetal brain development and long-term clinical outcomes. It is important to close the gap between what science tells us about the impact of prenatal drug exposure on the fetus and the mother and what we do programmatically with regard to at-risk populations.

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