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UNC, Yale partner to study effects of cocaine use on mother-infant relationships
Date:11/13/2008

CHAPEL HILL Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Yale University have been awarded almost $10 million to study the many ways cocaine use during pregnancy can negatively affect interactions between mothers and their infants.

The project's researchers hope their findings will aid the development of new intervention strategies for helping both mothers and children, and prove valuable to others working in fields such as drug abuse and developmental disorders.

Josephine Johns, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at UNC, is the principal investigator and project director of the study. Linda Mayes, M.D., professor of child psychiatry, pediatrics and psychology at Yale, is principal investigator for the portion of the study conducted there.

"The scientific tools and methods developed and used for the project, as well as the new information it will provide about the basis of maternal-infant interactions, should prove beneficial for behavioral or biological intervention strategies," Johns said.

"For example, if specific types of cries are found to elicit negative feelings or responses from mothers, on a very basic level we can work with mothers to make them aware of why these cries might be uncomfortable and develop methods for coping and responding to their babies in a more positive fashion," she said.

The study will consist of three separate projects, supported by shared neuroimaging and data analysis teams. Project 1, based at UNC, will examine the effects of cocaine on mother-infant interactions in rodents. Researchers will examine the brain development of infants exposed to cocaine and how that exposure affects their ability to regulate body temperature, hormones and other bodily processes. The project will also determine how cocaine use during pregnancy affects mothers' brain structures and hormonal systems, alters their genetic responses and affects how mothers respo
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Contact: Tom Hughes
tahughes@unch.unc.edu
919-966-6047
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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