Fathers who use cocaine at the time of conceiving a child may be putting their sons at risk of learning disabilities and memory loss. The findings of the animal study were published online in Molecular Psychiatry by a team of researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The researchers say the findings reveal that drug abuse by fathers — separate from the well-established effects of cocaine use in mothers — may negatively impact cognitive development in their male offspring.
The study, which was led by Mathieu Wimmer, PhD, a post-doctoral researcher in the laboratory of R. Christopher Pierce, PhD, a professor of Neuroscience in Psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, found evidence that the sons of fathers that ingested cocaine prior to conception struggle to make new memories. Their findings demonstrated that the sons — but not the daughters — of male rats that consumed cocaine for an extended period of time could not remember the location of items in their surroundings and had impaired synaptic plasticity in hippocampus, a brain region critical for learning and spatial navigation in humans and rodents.