A new research published in the journal Chaos reveals that there is no safe amount or safe period during pregnancy for alcohol consumption. The scientists analysed biological changes in the brain to show long term effects of prenatal alcohol consumption that drive fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
FASD can last throughout a child’s life causing problems in behaviour and mood as the child grows up. This can lead to problems such as alcohol and drug abuse, depression, psychosis, aggressive behaviour and a wide array of neurological issues, including ADHD.
The research found that teenagers who were exposed to alcohol while in the womb showed altered brain connections that were consistent with impaired cognitive performance. Their findings were evaluated by measuring the responses from a brain imaging technique called magnetoencephalography (MEG).
Previous attempts to study the brain circuitry in affected individuals have been hindered by the difficulty of drawing conclusions from complicated MEG data.Therefore the current study developed a sophisticated computer technique called Cortical Start Spatio-Temporal multidipole analysis that could identify which areas of the brain were active when the participants were in the MEG machine.
The study enrolled 19 teenage participants with prenatal alcohol exposure and 21 healthy control teenage subjects. The computational approach revealed several areas of the brain that showed impaired connectivity among the former cohort.
Most subjects who were exposed to alcohol while in womb showed to have issues with connections through their corpus callosum (the brain tissue that connects the left and right halves of the brain). Deficits in this area have been diagnosed in people with schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, autism, depression and abnormalities in sensation.
“This work presents major evidence that children exposed to alcohol prenatally are at risk of suffering from impaired cognitive abilities and other secondary factors,” said Lin Gao, an author on the paper. “Our study … shows that there is no safe amount or safe stages during pregnancy for alcohol consumption,” she added.