Maternal smoking during pregnancy and cortical structure in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Psychiatry Res. 2024 Apr:334:115791. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2024.115791. Epub 2024 Feb 12.


Maternal smoking during pregnancy (MSDP) is considered a risk factor for ADHD. While the mechanisms underlying this association are not well understood, MSDP may impact the developing brain in ways that lead to ADHD. Here, we investigated the effect of prenatal smoking exposure on cortical brain structures in children with ADHD using two methods of assessing prenatal exposure: maternal recall and epigenetic typing. Exposure groups were defined according to: (1) maternal recall (+MSDP: n = 24; -MSDP: n = 85) and (2) epigenetic markers (EM) (+EM: n = 14 -EM: n = 21). CIVET-1.1.12 and RMINC were used to acquire cortical brain measurements and perform statistical analyses, respectively. The vertex with highest significance was tested for association with Continuous Performance Test (CPT) dimensions. While no differences of brain structures were identified between +MSDP and -MSDP, +EM children (n = 10) had significantly smaller surface area in the right orbitofrontal cortex (ROFc), middle temporal cortex (RTc) and parahippocampal gyrus (RPHg) (15% FDR) compared to -EM children (n = 20). Cortical surface area in the RPHg significantly correlated with CPT commission errors T-scores. This study suggests that molecular markers may better define exposure to environmental risks, as compared to human recall.

Keywords: ADHD; Children; Cortical surface area; Epigenetic markers; Prenatal smoking.

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / etiology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking
  • Tobacco Smoking