Developmental Consequences of Prenatal Substance Use in Adolescents

Elisa Loy, BA

Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Developmental Consequences of Prenatal Substance Use in Adolescents

Scientific Abstract

Background: Prenatal drug use is linked to various behavioral and cognitive outcomes in adolescence. Previous MRI studies have reported significant negative effects of these drugs on the fetus, including altered development of adolescent brain structures. However, these studies had small sample sizes, and therefore could not account for confounding effects such as poly- substance use, drug dosage, etc. Using structural MRI (sMRI) data provided by the multi-site Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, we aim to deepen our understanding of prenatal drug use on brain development of adolescents.

Methods: 11,466 adolescents between 8 and 11 years old were included in the ABCD Study Release 3.0. Of these, we selected 600 participants with no reported maternal drug use, 482 participants with reported maternal drug use prior to pregnancy, and 313 participants with reported maternal drug use before and during pregnancy. The sMRI data was collected across 21 sites and 45 total MRI settings (Siemens, GE, and Philips scanners). Structural images were parcellated into anatomical regions using FreeSurfer 5.3. We applied ComBat Harmonization in FreeSurfer regions to remove scanner-related differences from multi-site data. Next, we will use logistic regression to examine the effects of various stages of prenatal substance use on brain development.

Results: Harmonization preserved the biological effects while reducing the scanner effects in the data. For example, sites 18 and 32, showed significant differences in total cortical volume (p=0.002, t=3.04) and after harmonization the differences were removed (p=0.528, t=- 0.63).Harmonization also preserved the sex-related biological effects (Cohen’s d) in both sites (e.g., site 32, before harmonization d=0.944, after harmonization d=0.972). Regression results will be presented in the meeting. We anticipate a significant effect of drugs in total intracranial volume, white matter and gray matter volumes, and many other regions.

Conclusion: Using a large-scale harmonized sMRI data from the ABCD study, we aim to better understand the trans-generational effects of prenatal drug exposure on adolescence brain development.

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research Areas


Elisa Loy, BA, Zhenya Knyazhanskaya, BA, Marek Kubicki, MD, PhD ,Yogesh Rathi, PhD, Suheyla Cetin-Karayuma, PhD

Principal Investigator

Suheyla Cetin-Karayuma, PhD