My research focuses on understanding long-term clinical, behavioral, and neurobiological problems in offspring that result from prenatal exposures. Two particular areas of interest are tobacco and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant exposures during pregnancy. Although the rates of smoking have decreased in the general population, about 5-10% of women smoke during pregnancy today. On the other hand, the rates of antidepressant medication use have been rising. When used in pregnancy, both nicotine and SSRIs cross the placental and the blood-brain barriers and thus can enter the developing fetal brain. Our research focuses on trying to understand what (if any) the long term consequences of these exposures are, with a particular focus on brain development. For example, we test whether maternal smoking or use of SSRIs during pregnancy impairs normative development of fetal brain structure, connectivity, and circuitry; and if so, whether those alterations persist through childhood development and increase risk for clinical or behavioral disorders. This work cross-talks with the other animal (Ansorge, Gingrich) and population (Brown, Weissman) studies of prenatal exposures ongoing at the Sackler Institute.
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