Prenatal Cannabis and Tobacco Exposure in Relation to Brain Morphology

A Prospective Neuroimaging Study in Young Children

El Marroun et al, Biol Psychiatry. 2016 Jun


BACKGROUNDCannabis use during pregnancy has been associated with negative behavioral outcomes and psychopathology in offspring. However, there has been little research evaluating alterations in brain structure as a result of maternal cannabis use. In this prospective study, we investigated the association between prenatal cannabis exposure and brain morphology in young children.

RESULTS: Prenatal cannabis exposure was not associated with global brain volumes, such as total brain volume, gray matter volume, or white matter volume. However, prenatal cannabis exposure was associated with differences in cortical thickness: compared with nonexposed control subjects, cannabis-exposed children had thicker frontal cortices. Prenatal tobacco exposure compared with nonexposed control subjects was associated with cortical thinning, primarily in the superior frontal and superior parietal cortices.

CONCLUSIONS:Our findings suggest an association between prenatal cannabis exposure and cortical thickness in children. Further research is needed to explore the causal nature of this association