2014 Funding Round – Emerging Researcher First Grant

Dr Jacqueline Henderson
University of Canterbury
Neurodevelopmental outcomes of children exposed to methadone during pregnancy
24 months

Lay summary

Children born to opiate dependent women on synthetic opiate methadone treatment during pregnancy are at a high risk of attentional problems, cognitive/language delays, and educational under-achievement. This study will examine at age 9 years, the neurodevelopmental outcomes that relate to these challenges using longitudinal data of 91 babies born to mothers maintained on methadone during their pregnancy alongside a randomly identified community sample of 97 non-exposed methadone babies. Earlier study findings suggest prenatal exposure to methadone increases risks of poorer neurobehavioral outcomes and neurological disturbances during infancy; more cognitive delay, poor psychomotor function and communication skills at 2 years; poorer school readiness, higher rates of attentional, behavioural and emotional problems, and language delay at 4.5 years than comparison children.  This study will examine the concurrent longitudinal effects of exposure to methadone during pregnancy and environmental effects, whilst also defining the children's neurodevelopmental outcomes in these crucial educational middle school years.

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