New York: Expecting mothers may give their drinking glass a goodbye kiss as researchers have found that parental alcohol exposure weakens brain activation in their children.
Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) showed weaker brain activation during specific cognitive tasks than their unaffected counterparts, the findings showed. FASD refers to the permanent birth defects caused by the mother's consumption of alcohol during pregnancy.
These results demonstrated that prenatal alcohol exposure can change how brain signalling develops during childhood and adolescence, long after the damaging effects of alcohol exposure in the womb.
"Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has been used to observe brain activity during mental tasks in children with FASD, but we are the first to utilise these techniques to look at brain activation over time," said Prapti Gautam from The Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital Los Angeles in the US.
To study how prenatal alcohol exposure may alter this development, researchers observed a group of unaffected children and a group of children with FASD over two years.
"We found that there were significant differences in development brain activation over time between the two groups, even though they did not differ in task performance," noted Elizabeth Sowell from The Saban Research Institute.
"While the healthy control group showed an increase in signal intensity over time, the children with FASD showed a decrease in brain activation during visuo-spatial attention, especially in the frontal, temporal and parietal brain regions," Sowell added.
The study will be published in the journal Cerebral Cortex.