Smokers who are trying to quit may find it especially difficult if their mother smoked during pregnancy, say researchers at Duke University Medical Center.
It's known that exposure to nicotine in the womb alters areas of the brain that play important roles in learning, memory and reward. This new study suggests that these changes may program the brain for relapse to nicotine addiction.
The Duke team found that rodents that were exposed to nicotine while in the womb self-administered more nicotine after periods without the drug than rodents that had no prenatal exposure to nicotine. The findings were published online this week in the journal Pharmacology.
Pregnant women should not smoke
The study results suggest that pregnant women should not smoke or use nicotine products such as patches or gums, the researchers said.
"Smoking during pregnancy can harm the baby in ways that extend far beyond preterm delivery or low birth weight. It causes changes in the brain development of the baby that can last a lifetime," lead investigator Edward Levin, professor of biological psychiatry, said in a prepared statement. - (HealthDayNews, January 2007)
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Smoking alters brain