In a study of adult monkeys who were exposed to moderate amounts of alcohol in utero, scientists have found that prenatal exposure to alcohol - even in small doses - has pronounced effects on the development and function later in life of the brains dopamine system, a critical component of the central nervous system that regulates many regions of the brain.
Writing in the current issue (Sept. 15, 2005) of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, a team of researchers led by Mary L. Schneider, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of occupational therapy and psychology, reports that when a monkey exposes her fetus to alcohol by drinking, the dopamine system of her offspring is altered. Effects on that key neural system, according to the studys results, can manifest themselves up to five years after birth, when the monkeys are fully grown.
The influence of alcohol on the dopamine system, depending on the timing of exposure during gestation, varies, says Schneider, but illustrates yet another biological consequence of drinking while pregnant.
Mary Schneider | EurekAlert!
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