Prenatal Exposure to Maternal Cigarette Smoking Associated With Altered Reward Processing and Anticipation



Whether adolescents with prenatal exposure to maternal cigarette smoking differ from their nonexposed peers in the response part of their brain to the anticipation or the receipt of a reward was examined in a study by Kathrin U. Müller, Dipl-Psych, of Technische Universität Dresden, Germany, and colleagues.

The researchers assessed 177 adolescents with prenatal exposure to maternal cigarette smoking and 177 nonexposued peers (age range, 13-15 years) matched by sex, maternal educational level, and imaging site. Response to reward was measured in the ventral striatum area of the brain by using functional magnetic resonance imaging.

In prenatally exposed adolescents, the authors reported observing a weaker response in the ventral striatum during reward anticipation compared with their nonexposed peers. No differences were found regarding the responsivity of the ventral striatum to the receipt of a reward.

“The weaker responsivity of the ventral striatum to regard anticipation in prenatally exposed adolescents may represent a risk factor for substance use and development of addiction later in life. This result highlights the need for education and preventive measures to reduce smoking during pregnancy,” the study concludes.

(JAMA Psychiatry. Published online June 19, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.44.