Home > Fetal brain function in response to maternal alcohol consumption: early evidence of damage.

Hepper, Peter J and Dorman, James C and Lynch, Catherine (2012) Fetal brain function in response to maternal alcohol consumption: early evidence of damage. Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research , 36 , (12) , pp. 2168-75.

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Background
Studies of the adverse neurobehavioral effects of maternal alcohol consumption on the fetus have been largely confined to the postnatal period, after exposure to alcohol has finished. This study explored the brain function of the fetus, at the time of exposure to alcohol, to examine its effect on information processing and stability of performance.

Methods
Five groups of fetuses, defined by maternal alcohol consumption patterns, were examined: control (no alcohol); moderate (5 to 10 units/wk either drunk evenly across the week or as a binge, in 2 to 3 days); heavy (20+ units/wk drunk evenly or as a binge). Fetal habituation performance was examined on 3 occasions, separated by 7 days, beginning at 35 weeks of gestation. The number of trials required to habituate on each test session and the difference in performance across test sessions were recorded.

Results
Fetuses exposed to heavy binge drinking required significantly more trials to habituate and exhibited a greater variability in performance across all test sessions than the other groups. Maternal drinking, either heavily but evenly or moderately as a binge, resulted in poorer habituation, and moderate binge drinking resulted in greater variability compared with no, or even, drinking.

Conclusions
Decreased information processing, reflected by poorer habituation, and increased variability in performance may reflect the initial manifestations of structural damage caused by alcohol to the brain. These results will lead to a greater understanding of the effects of alcohol on the fetus's brain, enable the antenatal identification of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, and lead to the early implementation of better management strategies.


Item Type:Article
Date:December 2012
Page Range:pp. 2168-75
Publisher:Wiley
Volume:36
Number:12
EndNote:View
Subjects:G Health and disease > Disorder by cause > Developmental disorder > Foetal (fetal) alcohol syndrome
A Substance use, abuse, and dependence > Prevalence > Problem substance use
VA Geographic area > Europe > Northern Ireland
T Demographic characteristics > Pregnant woman
B Substances > Alcohol
T Demographic characteristics > Child of person who uses substances

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