Prenatal exposure to recreational drugs affects global motion perception in preschool children

Arijit Chakraborty, Nicola S Anstice, Robert J Jacobs, Linda L LaGasse, Barry M Lester, Trecia A Wouldes, Benjamin Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)


Prenatal exposure to recreational drugs impairs motor and cognitive development; however it is currently unknown whether visual brain areas are affected. To address this question, we investigated the effect of prenatal drug exposure on global motion perception, a behavioural measure of processing within the dorsal extrastriate visual cortex that is thought to be particularly vulnerable to abnormal neurodevelopment. Global motion perception was measured in one hundred and forty-five 4.5-year-old children who had been exposed to different combinations of methamphetamine, alcohol, nicotine and marijuana prior to birth and 25 unexposed children. Self-reported drug use by the mothers was verified by meconium analysis. We found that global motion perception was impaired by prenatal exposure to alcohol and improved significantly by exposure to marijuana. Exposure to both drugs prenatally had no effect. Other visual functions such as habitual visual acuity and stereoacuity were not affected by drug exposure. Prenatal exposure to methamphetamine did not influence visual function. Our results demonstrate that prenatal drug exposure can influence a behavioural measure of visual development, but that the effects are dependent on the specific drugs used during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16921
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


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