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Psychiatry Res. 2013 Aug 30;213(2):161-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2013.04.002. Epub 2013 Jun 12.

White matter microstructure abnormalities and executive function in adolescents with prenatal cocaine exposure.

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Department of Neurology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Children with prenatal exposure to cocaine are at higher risk for negative behavioral function and attention difficulties, and have demonstrated brain diffusion abnormalities in frontal white matter regions. However, brain regions beyond frontal and callosal areas have not been investigated using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). DTI data were collected on 42 youth aged 14-16 years; subjects were divided into three groups based on detailed exposure histories: those with prenatal exposure to cocaine but not alcohol (prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE), n=12), prenatal exposure to cocaine and alcohol (cocaine and alcohol exposure (CAE), n=17), and controls (n=13). Tractography was performed and along-tract diffusion parameters were examined for group differences and correlations with executive function measures. In the right arcuate fasciculus and cingulum, the CAE group had higher fractional anisotropy (FA) and/or lower mean diffusivity (MD) than the other two groups. The PCE group demonstrated lower FA in the right arcuate and higher MD in the splenium of the corpus callosum than controls. Diffusion parameters in tracts with group differences correlated with measures of executive function. In conclusion, these diffusion differences in adolescents with prenatal cocaine exposure suggest localized, long-term structural brain alterations that may underlie attention and response-inhibition difficulties.

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