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Meth Damage to Fetal Brain Worse than Alcohol

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A small study has found that babies exposed to methamphetamine and alcohol before birth have smaller caudate nucleus regions in the brain than non-exposed children or children exposed to alcohol only in the womb, HealthDay News reported March 17.

Researchers compared brain scans of 13 children exposed to alcohol before birth, 21 children exposed to meth and alcohol, and 27 children who were not exposed to either drug.

The caudite nucleus assists in learning, memory, motor control and motivation.

“We know that alcohol exposure is toxic to the developing fetus and can result in lifelong brain, cognitive and behavioral problems,” said researcher Elizabeth Sowell of the University of California at Los Angeles. “In this study, we show that the effects of prenatal meth exposure, or the combination of meth and alcohol exposure, may actually be worse. Our findings stress the importance of drug abuse treatment for pregnant women.”

The findings were published March 17, 2010 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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