The neurodevelopmental impact of neonatal morphine administration

Stephanie Attarian, Lan Chi Tran, Aimee Moore, George Stanton, Eric Meyer, Robert P. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Medical management of newborn infants often necessitates recurrent painful procedures, which may alter nociceptive pathways during a critical developmental period and adversely effect neuropsychological outcomes. To mitigate the effects of repeated painful stimuli, opioid administration for peri-procedural analgesia and ICU (intensive care unit) sedation is common in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). A growing body of basic and animal evidence suggests potential long-term harm associated with neonatal opioid therapy. Morphine increases apoptosis in human microglial cells, and animal studies demonstrate long-term changes in behavior, brain function, and spatial recognition memory following morphine exposure. This comprehensive review examines existing preclinical and clinical evidence on the long-term impacts of neonatal pain and opioid therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-334
Number of pages14
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Development
  • Morphine
  • Neonate
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Pain


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