Teenagers exposed to cigarette smoke in the womb are at risk for attention problems, and the deficits worsen if the teens themselves smoke, according to a new study.
Doctors at Yale University School of Medicine, in a study that will be published today in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, suggest that tobacco plays a critical role in the developing brain, whether it's in a fetus or in a teenager whose brain is still a work in progress.
Dr. Leslie Jacobsen, an associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics, tested 181 adolescents, including 92 who had been exposed to cigarette smoke in utero.
They found that the more exposure - during fetal development or adolescence - the more compromised their attention circuits were, according to Jacobsen.
There was a 13 percent difference in the scores between smokers exposed in utero and those with no history of smoke exposure. Male teens' scores on visual attention appeared no different than those of boys with no exposure to smoke.
In girls, there was an 8 percent reduction in auditory and visual information processing. The teenagers, with an average age of 16, had been smoking daily for more than two years.