“Zero Safe Level”: Prenatal Exposure To Alcohol Destroys Fetus’s Neocortex Network & Gene Expression

by • December 5, 2013 • Health, Neuroscience, ScienceComments (0)3169

The next time you see a pregnant mother enjoying a rare glass of wine or beer, you might want to let her know she is doing irreversible damage to her child’s brain and genetics.  Neuroscientists at the University of California, Riverside, have proven 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].  Prenatal exposure caused wrong areas of the brain to be connected with each other, the researchers found.”  Kelly Huffman, assistant professor of psychology at UC Riverside is the lead author of the study which appears in the November 27th issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, the official, peer-reviewed publication of the Society of Neuroscience.  “If you consume alcohol when you are pregnant you can disrupt the development of your baby’s brain,” says Huffman in an interview with Science Daily.  “This research helps us understand how substances like alcohol impact brain development and change behavior,” Huffman explained.  “It also shows how prenatal alcohol exposure generates dramatic change in the brain that leads to changes in behavior.  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.”  Scientists have known for quite some time that ethanol exposure has an impact on the baby’s brain and cognitive development, but this is the first time neuroscientists have proven that exposure to ethanol leads to significant behavioral changes.  Science Daily writes: “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.”

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