Researchers at the Arkansas Children's Research Institute received $516,375 from the National Institutes of Health to study how prenatal exposure to opioids and other drugs affects children's brain development.
Children's said the 18-month Phase 1 planning grant will help lay the foundation for a major component of NIH's Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative, the HEALthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) study.
The HBCD study aims to follow thousands of children from before birth through age 9-10 to examine how brain development and children's cognitive function and behavior are influenced by prenatal opioid and other drug exposure, childhood trauma and adversity and other environmental factors.
In a news release, Children's noted that since 2000, the number of pregnant women with opioid use disorders has increased four-fold and the incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome has increased five-fold, according to NIH.
In Arkansas, the work will be led by ACRI investigators Xiawei Ou, Ph.D., an associate professor of radiology and pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine, and Ashley Acheson, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at UAMS.
For Phase 1, ACRI is part of a consortium that includes Duke University, Cincinnati Children's Hospital, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The ACRI award is among 375 grants across 41 states made by NIH in 2019 to apply scientific solutions to reverse the national opioid crisis.