Prenatal Effects of Cocaine Exposure

Essay by talkin7College, UndergraduateA+, June 2008

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In the past it had been thought that prenatal cocaine exposure has severely harmful effects on all aspects of mental functioning, however, recent studies have shown that this exposure does not have as bleak and far reaching negative effects as was previously thought. Recently researchers have pinpointed certain aspects of mental functioning which seem to be altered by this prenatal exposure. One of these mental areas is that of selective attention, and this paper will summarize and review two empirical studies which examine the relationship of prenatal cocaine exposure to selective attention early in life.

Prenatal Cocaine exposure impairs Selective Attention: Evidence from serial reversal and extra dimensional shift tasks (Garavan, H., Morgan, R. E., Mactutus, C. F., Levitsky, D. A., Booze, R. M., & Strupp, B. J. 2000.) was an animal study (conducted with rats) which examined the effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on the learning and attention of young rats.

This study built upon recent research and asked the question; "Which cerebral tasks does prenatal cocaine exposure disrupt?" The major goal of this study was to clarify the ways in which the thinking of young rats exposed to cocaine prenatally, differed from unexposed rats.

The researchers expected that both learning and attention would be affected by the prenatal exposure, and anticipated using in depth analysis to determine the precise cognitive processes which were interfered with.

To accomplish this two groups of rats were created; half were surrogates (rats who were not operated upon) and half were catheterized (surgically altered to allow regular, intravenous injection). All rats were impregnated by a male. Of the catheterized group half were administered cocaine (at a dose equal to a low, human recreational dose) daily, whilst the other half were injected with saline. After the babies were all born the cocaine exposed babies...