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25 July 2007

Alcohol may alter child's brain

Neurological changes could boost risks for ADHD, other problems, say researchers.

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Being exposed to alcohol before birth may lead to behavioural problems later on, U.S. researchers report.

Heavy prenatal alcohol exposure does not always lead to foetal alcohol syndrome, noted a team reporting in the August issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. In some cases, it can cause cognitive and behavioural problems without the facial features characteristic of foetal alcohol syndrome.

In their study, researchers at San Diego State University (SDSU) examined 22 children and adolescents (ages 8 to 18 years) - 13 with and 9 without histories of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure. The participants were part of a larger study at the Center for Behavioural Teratology, SDSU.

The participants who were exposed to heavy alcohol before birth had altered responses in the frontal-striatal areas of the brain.

"We found two regions within the prefrontal cortex where the youth with alcohol-exposure histories had increased brain activation and one area in the subcortex (called the caudate nucleus) where the alcohol-exposed youth had decreased brain activation," study co-author Susanna L. Fryer, a graduate student in the SDSU/University of California, San Diego, joint doctoral program in clinical psychology, said in a prepared statement.

These brain regions are thought to be involved with the inhibition of behaviour. In fact, the participants with alcohol exposure were also at greater risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other psychiatric diseases linked with poor control of inhibition.

"Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause damage to the brain that result in significant problems with regulating behaviour and optimal thinking and learning," Fryer said. - (HealthDay News)

Read more:
FAS – a growing problem?
How pregnancy drinking harms baby

 
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