Effects of Alcohol During Pregnancy in Children Can Last for Generations, Study Reveals

By Amy Taylor on July 11, 2017

You’ve heard it multiple times – whether you are planning to get pregnant or already is, you should not drink alcohol. And there are many reasons for this. Topping the list is that it could harm your baby. But if you think that the effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy are not that severe, think again.

According to new research, drinking alcohol during pregnancy will not only affect her unborn child, but may also impact brain development and lead to adverse outcomes in her future grand- and even great-grandchildren.

"Traditionally, prenatal ethanol exposure (PrEE) from maternal consumption of alcohol, was thought to solely impact directly exposed offspring, the embryo or foetus in the womb. However, we now have evidence that the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure could persist transgenerationally and negatively impact the next-generations of offspring who were never exposed to alcohol," says Kelly Huffman, psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, titled "Prenatal Ethanol Exposure and Neocortical Development: A Transgenerational Model of FASD," was published in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

Previous work from the Huffman Laboratory at UCR has shown that PrEE impacts the anatomy of the neocortex, the part of the brain responsible for complex behaviour and cognition in humans. Furthermore, it suggests that PrEE can lead to abnormal motor behaviour and increased anxiety in the exposed offspring. Huffman and his team have extended this research by providing strong evidence that in utero ethanol exposure generates neurobiological and behavioural effects in subsequent clinical experiments.

Their findings suggest that alcohol consumption while pregnant leads to a cascade of nervous system changes that ultimately impact behaviour, via mechanisms that can produce transgenerational effects. By gaining an understanding of the neurodevelopmental and behavioural effects of prenatal ethanol exposure that persist across generations, scientists and researchers can begin to create novel therapies and methods of prevention.

Their findings were published in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

Source of this article:

Charles W. Abbott et al. Prenatal Ethanol Exposure and Neocortical Development: A Transgenerational Model of FASD, Cerebral Cortex (2017)

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