In a study believed to have implications for children and adults suffering from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, rat pups given alcohol during a period of rapid brain development demonstrated significant changes in circadian or 24-hour rhythms as adults. The alcohol dosage was the equivalent of several nights of binge drinking on the part of a pregnant woman, and it was given at a time during rat brain development (shortly after birth) equivalent to the third trimester of human fetal development.
Dr. David J. Earnest, Texas A&M University Health Sciences Center, presented the findings Sunday, April 3, at an American Association of Anatomists session on dissecting the biological clock during Experimental Biology 2005 in San Diego.
Dr. Earnest says the findings are significant for three reasons:
Fetal Alcohol syndrome (FAS) can occur in the offspring of mothers who abuse alcohol during pregnancy. Some of the deleterious effects of maternal alcohol use on the developing fetus include craniofacial alterations (e.g. a thin upper lip and a small nose) and defects in brain development. Animal studies examining the spectrum of alcohol-induced brain injuries have revealed that affected offspring are most vulnerable to the damaging effects of alcohol during the brain growth spurt period, which is the human equivalent of the third trimester and that these defects in brain development often persist into adulthood.
Sarah Goodwin | EurekAlert!
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