Prenatal marijuana exposure impacts executive functioning into young adulthood: An fMRI study
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Understanding the potentially harmful long term consequences of prenatal marijuana exposure is important given the increase in number of pregnant women smoking marijuana to relieve morning sickness. Altered executive functioning is one area of research that has suggested negative consequences of prenatal marijuana exposure into adolescence. Investigating if these findings continue into young adulthood and exploring the neural basis of these effects was the purpose of this research. Thirty one young adults (ages 18-22years) from the longitudinal Ottawa Prenatal Prospective Study (OPPS) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during four tasks; 1) Visuospatial 2-Back, 2) Go/NoGo, 3) Letter 2-Back and 4) Counting Stroop task. Sixteen participants were prenatally exposed to marijuana while 15 had no prenatal marijuana exposure. Task performance was similar for both groups but blood flow was significantly different between the groups. This paper presents the results for all 4 tasks, highlighting the consistently increased left posterior brain activity in the prenatally exposed group compared with the control group. These alterations in neurophysiological functioning of young adults prenatally exposed to marijuana emphasizes the importance of education for women in child bearing years, as well as for policy makers and physicians interested in the welfare of both the pregnant women and their offspring's future success.
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