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What to Avoid at Parties

At this year's holiday celebrations, try to avoid rooms filled with second-hand smoke (especially if you're pregnant): Exposure to nicotine during pregnancy leads to a decrease in adult stem cells and a change in the brains of the offspring. Researchers say this could be a possible cause for behavioral problems such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) seen in children whose mothers smoked.

Adult stem cells in the hippocampus, the area of the brain most connected to learning and memory, continue to divide and produce new cells over a lifetime. Researchers showed that exposing rats to nicotine during pregnancy leads to a decrease in the number of new cells in the hippocampus.

Neurobiologist Robin Lester says that this "could account for some of the behavioral problems observed later in the lives of children of mothers who smoke during pregnancy. These problems could include various cognitive deficits, learning difficulties, ADHD and an increased predisposition to drugs of abuse." The World Health Organization reports that approximately 20% of women continue to smoke during pregnancy.

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