It is generally understood that smoking during pregnancy has deleterious effects on the developing fetus, although research on smoking during pregnancy has been limited in focus, with most studies focused on birth weight of newborns and children's behavioral disturbances. However, little is known about the neurobiological underpinnings of nicotine-related developmental deficits and even less is known about genetic and environmental factors that may exacerbate the risk for such deficits in some children. In this study, we propose to examine the relation between antenatal exposure to nicotine and infants' stress-responses before and after birth (2-days, 6-months) and its moderation of by family-based stressors and genes related to nicotine metabolism and stress responsivity.
We hypothesize that the risk imposed on infants by antenatal exposure to nicotine is moderated by genotype that influences functioning of the HPA axis, metabolism of nicotine, and stress-levels and parenting that influence the development of neural substrates (HPA axis) and infants' capacity to cope with stress. There is a growing consensus that Gene x Environmental (G x E) interplay likely mediated by epigenetic effects constitute one of the central mechanism by which complex disorders develop. Our proposal offers an exceptional paradigm to explore the association between genes, environment, and G x E interactions on the neural and behavior response of children to stressful challenges.