'Prenatal Necotine Exposure Affects Foetus'
PRENATAL exposure to nicotine appears to inflict lasting damage that may leave the brain vulnerable to further injury and addiction upon later use of the drug.
Research at the Duke University Medical Center, found in studies done on rats, that exposure to nicotine in fetal development alters the brain structures and activity in regions critical to learning, memory and reward. These changes, in turn influence nicotine's effects on the brain during adolescence, a time when smokers first take up the habit.
The study might provide a biological explanation for the high incidence of smoking among teens whose mothers smoked during pregnancy, the researchers said.
Teens whose mothers smoked during pregnancy can show signs of nicotine dependence and withdrawal after just a handful of cigarettes" says Theotore Slotkin, professor of pharmacology at Duke.
Prenatal exposure to nicotine reduces the brain's response to acetylcholine (a natural chemical messenger that plays a critical response in learning and memory) because of it's ability to mimic acetylcholine.
The reduced response of acetylcholine systems in the adolescent brain following prenatal exposure might lead teens to self-administer nicotine in an attempt to replace the brain's functional loss.