Psychotropic medications like benzodiazepines (tranquilizers used to control anxiety) and serotonin reuptake inhibitors (antidepressants used to treat depression) are frequently prescribed during pregnancy to manage depression and anxiety, even though these drugs have not been approved for this purpose, and the impact on infant development is unclear. These drugs increase the activity of certain chemicals in the brain that inhibit nerve cell activity. Whitney Weikum is expanding on her earlier MSFHR-funded research on language development in infants. Now Weikum is studying the effects of prenatal exposure to psychotropic drugs on critical periods of infant language development. During the first years of life, infants rapidly and almost effortlessly acquire language. There appear to be a number of discrete periods critical for acquiring language information. At birth, infants have the ability to discriminate almost all the distinctive sounds from the world’s languages. Weikum is testing infants’ responses to different language sounds at 36 weeks gestation, as newborns, and during the first year to learn whether psychotropic drugs affect cognitive and language development. The results will be compared to women who experienced depression, but did not take medication, to determine the impact of depression alone on infants’ language development. The goal is to help women and physicians make informed decisions about whether to use psychotropic medications during pregnancy.