Smoking During Pregnancy Has Long-Term Neural Impact

HealthDay News — Maternal smoking during pregnancy may have long-term effects on neural activity and development of inhibition control in offspring, according to researchers.

Nathalie E. Holz, from Heidelberg University in Germany, and colleagues examined the influence of maternal smoking during pregnancy on offspring. They performed functional magnetic resonance imaging on 178 offspring (at age 25 years).

Standardized parent interviews were conducted at offspring’s age of 3 years and from age 2 to 15 years to determine prenatal smoking and lifetime attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms. The findings were published in JAMA Psychiatry.

During the processing of the NoGo compared to neutral stimuli, participants prenatally exposed to nicotine exhibited a weaker response in the anterior cingulate cortex (P = 0.003), the right inferior frontal gyrus (P = 0.04), the left inferior frontal gyrus (P = 0.009), and the supramarginal gyrus (P = 0.02), the researchers found.

They also showed a decreased volume in the right inferior frontal gyrus. Irrespective of adjustment for confounders, ADHD symptoms and novelty seeking, the findings persisted. Inverse relationships were seen between inferior frontal gyrus activity and ADHD symptoms and between anterior cingulate cortex activity and novelty seeking.

“These findings point to a functional involvement of prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke in neural alterations similar to ADHD, which underlines the importance of smoking prevention treatments,” the researchers wrote.


  1. Holz NE et al. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014; doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.343.

Disclosures: Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.