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Study Shows Impact of Paternal Marijuana Exposure on the Brains of Offspring

Man holding babyA male’s marijuana use appears to alter sperm prior to mating, causing offspring to develop distinct abnormalities in areas of the brain that help govern learning, memory, reward and mood, according to a Duke-led study conducted on rats.

In the animal study, in which only the males were exposed to marijuana prior to mating, the brain anomalies of the offspring closely resembled changes that are evident in human babies exposed as fetuses to known neurotoxins such as pesticides and tobacco smoke.

“Our findings are translatable from rats to humans because the same brain circuits are involved in both humans and rats,” said Theodore Slotkin, Ph.D., professor in the department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke and senior author of the study appearing online Feb. 20 in the journal Toxicological Sciences. Slotkin also holds a faculty appointment in the department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences.

Read the full press release on the Duke Health New & Media website.