Effects of prenatal opioid exposure on infant sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activity

Alexandra R. Tabachnick*, Rina Das Eiden, Madelyn H. Labella, Mary Dozier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prenatal opioid exposure has been associated with developmental problems, including autonomic nervous system dysregulation. However, little is known about the effects of prenatal opioid exposure on the autonomic nervous system beyond the first days of life, particularly across both the parasympathetic and sympathetic branches, and when accounting for exposure to other substances. The present study examined the effects of prenatal exposure to opioid agonist therapy (OAT, e.g., methadone) and other opioids on infant autonomic nervous system activity at rest and in response to a social stressor (the Still-Face Paradigm) at six months among 86 infants varying in prenatal opioid and other substance exposure. Results indicated that OAT and other opioids have unique effects on the developing autonomic nervous system that may further depend on subtype (i.e., methadone versus buprenorphine) and timing in gestation. Results are discussed in the context of theoretical models of the developing stress response system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere14470
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • autonomic nervous system
  • impedance cardiography
  • infant
  • opioid exposure
  • respiratory sinus arrhythmia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Physiology


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