• Buprenorphine;
  • cognitive;
  • development;
  • eye tracking;
  • methadone;
  • smooth pursuit;
  • visuomotor


Background and aims

Although an increasing number of children are born to mothers in opioid maintenance therapy (OMT), little is known about the long-term effects of these opioids. Previous studies suggest an association between prenatal OMT exposure and difficulties in eye movement control. Also, the effects of tobacco smoking on eye movements have been reported. The present study examined the influence of eye movements, i.e. smooth pursuit, on visuomotor capabilities in children of smoking mothers in OMT.


The study comprised a 2 (OMT versus contrast group) × 2 (slow versus fast smooth pursuit) between-subject factorial design.


The cognitive developmental research unit at the University of Oslo, Norway.


Participants were 26 4-year-old children of tobacco-smoking women in OMT and 23 non-exposed 4-year-old children, with non-smoking mothers, matched by gender and age.


Eye movements and smooth pursuit were recorded using a Tobii 1750 eyetracker. Visuomotor functions were examined by Bender test.


The OMT group tracked slowly moving objects with smooth pursuit in a similar manner to their non-exposed peers. When fast smooth pursuit was measured, the OMT group of children tracked the object more slowly than the contrast group, P = 0.02, ηp2 = 0.11. A regression analysis showed that fast smooth pursuit predicted children's performance on a visuomotor task, R2 = 0.37.


Impaired eye-tracking skills in 4-year-old children exposed to methadone or buprenorphine and tobacco prenatally could inhibit the development of some cognitive functions in later life.