If you’re pregnant, here’s a great reason to stop smoking, drinking or using illegal drugs: These substances negatively alter your baby’s brain structure and create problems that can persist into your child’s teen years. “We found that reductions in cortical gray matter and total brain volumes were associated with prenatal exposure to cocaine, alcohol or cigarettes,” says researcher Dr. Michael Rivkin, a neurologist at Children’s Hospital in Boston and lead author on a recent study that used MRI technology to track brain changes over time in infants who were exposed to these substances in the womb. The study is the first to document the long-term brain damage of prenatal cocaine, alcohol and tobacco exposure. The greater the exposure, the more the baby’s brain volume was reduced overall while in the womb.
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