Effects of prenatal exposure to cocaine on the reactivity and regulation of the motor system of 825 four-month-old infants enrolled in the Maternal Lifestyle Study were examined. Videotaped assessments of 338 cocaine-exposed (CE) infants and 487 non-exposed comparison infants were coded by examiners masked to exposure status. Exposure status was determined by meconium assay and maternal self-report of prenatal cocaine use. Infants were presented with a series of 17 visual, auditory and tactile stimuli for 30-s each. Intensity and latency of limb movement responses on a subset of items were analyzed to test the following hypotheses: CE infants are more active in general; CE infants exhibit increased movement levels for a larger proportion of time in response to stimulation; the motor systems of CE infants are more reactive to stimulation (e.g., shorter latencies to respond); and CE infants are poorer regulators of the motor system.
Results: CE infants were not more active in general and data do not indicate a more highly reactive motor system. However, CE infants exhibited increased movement levels for a larger proportion of time in response to stimulation. Additional analysis of movement exhibited during three tactile items found increased movement lability in CE infants and different patterns of responding, suggesting that the effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on the motor system may vary by context. Covariate effects for tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana are also reported.
Keywords: Cocaine; Motor activity; Prenatal exposure; Reactivity; Regulation.
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