Complex physical learning may help children overcome some mental disabilities that result from prenatal alcohol consumption by their mothers, say researchers whose experiments led to increased wiring in the brains of young rats.
In their study, infant rats were exposed to alcohol during a period of brain development (especially in the cerebellum) that is similar to that of the human third trimester of pregnancy. In adulthood, the rats improved their learning skills during a 20-day regimen of complex motor training, and generated new synapses in their cerebellum.
About 0.1 percent of U.S. births involve newborns with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, characterized by a variety of physical, mental and neurological defects that often lead to behavioral, learning and mobility problems. Ten times that many children, also exposed to alcohol before birth, may not meet the diagnostic criteria for FAS but still have behavioral and brain defects that are now classified as alcohol-related developmental disorders.
Jim Barlow | EurekAlert!
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