Histamine H1 receptor antagonists (antihistamines) are widely used for the treatment of allergic disorders in young children. This study examined the effects of antihistamine on prefrontal cortex activity in preschool children using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), an emerging brain-imaging method suitable for psychological experiments, especially in young children. We examined the changes of oxygenated hemoglobin concentration in the prefrontal cortex while children performed a spatial working memory task, 3h after taking a first-generation antihistamine (ketotifen), second-generation antihistamine (epinastine), or placebo. Fifteen healthy preschool children (mean age, 5.5 years) participated. Ketotifen significantly impaired behavioral performance and cortical activation at the lateral prefrontal cortex in the working memory task, compared with epinastine and placebo. There were no sedative effects on neural response or behavioral performance after epinastine administration. This paper demonstrates for the first time differential sedation effects of first- and second-generation antihistamines on brain hemodynamic response in young children. Also discussed is the utility of the NIRS technique in neuropsychopharmacological studies of children.
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