An emerging study looked at the link between prenatal smoking and behavioral problems in children. Most discussed was attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) later in childhood. The possible cause for this was explained by recent research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The Research explained that nicotine exposure in utero causes a decline in adult stem cells and an alteration in the ability of the hippocampuses’ synaptic plasticity. This was evident in the UAB team’s test on rats. The test showed that the rats that were exposed to nicotine during pregnancy presented a significant decrease in the number of new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus part of the brain plays a significant role in learning and memory and the adult stem cells in this area maintain the production of new cells in a lifetime, that is, if without the nicotine exposure.
Despite the many established ill-effects of maternal smoking to a newborn’s general health, the World Health Organization reports that there are still a significant number of pregnant women who smoke. Experts believe as many as 20 percent of pregnant women are believed to be smokers.
The findings of the study conducted by Lester, pointed that nicotine exposure in utero is a substantial cause for brain cell alterations accounting for behavioral problems in children, including learning disabilities.
Shay Hyman, a doctoral student in Lester’s laboratory said that although it has also been established that other addictive drugs such as cocaine and morphine contribute to similar effects in newborn brain cells, nicotine showed a more drastic effect in newborns and may suggest a considerable increase in susceptibility for damage to the newborn’s learning faculties during pregnancy.