Nicotine Exposure May Cause Auditory Processing Problems in Mice Add this to the already-long list of harmful effects of smoking: Children exposed to nicotine, before and after birth, could have hearing problems caused by abnormal development of the auditory brainstem, suggests new researchon mice. When mothers smoke before and after giving birth, their children are exposed to nicotine in ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   June 01, 2017
Nicotine Exposure May Cause Auditory Processing Problems in Mice
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Hearing & Speech Perception / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   June 01, 2017
Nicotine Exposure May Cause Auditory Processing Problems in Mice
The ASHA Leader, June 2017, Vol. 22, 12. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB1.22062017.12
The ASHA Leader, June 2017, Vol. 22, 12. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB1.22062017.12
Add this to the already-long list of harmful effects of smoking: Children exposed to nicotine, before and after birth, could have hearing problems caused by abnormal development of the auditory brainstem, suggests new researchon mice.
When mothers smoke before and after giving birth, their children are exposed to nicotine in the womb and through breast milk. Nicotine exposure can cause abnormal early development in children, which (according to the authors) could include auditory processing deficits—specifically delayed speech development and learning difficulties. The paper appears in The Journal of Physiology.
The researchers, led by Ursula Koch, professor at the Freie Universität Berlin, exposed mouse pups to nicotine by adding it to the drinking water of their pregnant mothers at levels similar to those seen in heavy human smokers. The mouse mothers passed the nicotine to their pups in utero and through breast milk after birth for three weeks.

The nicotine-exposed mice’s neurons were less effective and less precise when transmitting information from the cochlea to other auditory brainstem neurons.

Brain analyses of the young mice measured their neurons’ abilities to fire and signal, compared with a control group of mice with no nicotine exposure. The nicotine-exposed mice’s neurons, the study found, were less effective and less precise when transmitting information from the cochlea to other auditory brainstem neurons.
“We do not know how many other parts of the auditory system are affected by nicotine exposure. More research is needed about the cumulative effect of nicotine exposure and the molecular mechanisms of how nicotine influences the development of neurons in the auditory brainstem,” Koch says.
If mothers smoke during pregnancy and their children show learning difficulties at school, they may want to consider testing for auditory processing deficits.
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June 2017
Volume 22, Issue 6