Thomason ME, Palopoli AC, Jariwala NN, et al. Miswiring the brain: Human prenatal Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol use associated with altered fetal hippocampal brain network connectivity. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Volume 51, October 2021, 101000
Increasing evidence supports a link between maternal prenatal cannabis use and altered neural and physiological development of the child. However, whether cannabis use relates to altered human brain development prior to birth, and specifically, whether maternal prenatal cannabis use relates to connectivity of fetal functional brain systems, remains an open question. The major objective of this study was to identify whether maternal prenatal cannabis exposure (PCE) is associated with variation in human brain hippocampal functional connectivity prior to birth. Prenatal drug toxicology and fetal fMRI data were available in a sample of 115 fetuses [43 % female; mean age 32.2 weeks (SD = 4.3)]. Voxelwise hippocampal connectivity analysis in a subset of age and sex-matched fetuses revealed that PCE was associated with alterations in fetal dorsolateral, medial and superior frontal, insula, anterior temporal, and posterior cingulate connectivity. Classification of group differences by age 5 outcomes suggest that compared to the non-PCE group, the PCE group is more likely to have increased connectivity to regions associated with less favorable outcomes and to have decreased connectivity to regions associated with more favorable outcomes. This is preliminary evidence that altered fetal neural connectome may contribute to neurobehavioral vulnerability observed in children exposed to cannabis in utero.