Washington: A new study has revealed that prenatal exposure to alcohol severely disrupts major features of brain development that potentially lead to increased anxiety and poor motor function, conditions typical in humans with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).
The study by neuroscientists at the University of California, Riverside, discovered that prenatal exposure to alcohol significantly altered the expression of genes and the development of a network of connections in the neocortex- the part of the brain responsible for high-level thought and cognition, vision, hearing, touch, balance, motor skills, language, and emotion- in a mouse model of FASD.
Lead author of the study Kelly Huffman said if you consume alcohol when you are pregnant you can disrupt the development of your baby's brain.
"This research helps us understand how substances like alcohol impact brain development and change behaviour," Huffman explained. "It also shows how prenatal alcohol exposure generates dramatic change in the brain that leads to changes in behaviour. Although this study uses a moderate- to high-dose model, others have shown that even small doses alter development of key receptors in the brain."
Huffman's team found dramatic changes in intraneocortical connections between the frontal, somatosensory and visual cortex in mice born to mothers who consumed ethanol during pregnancy.
The changes were especially severe in the frontal cortex, which regulates motor skill learning, decision-making, planning, judgment, attention, risk-taking, executive function and sociality.
The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.