Large Study Highlights Impact of Drinking in Pregnancy in Four US Communities

The consequences of prenatal alcohol exposure have been highlighted by three new reports on fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in a virtual issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. FASD is the umbrella term for the continuum of effects caused by prenatal drinking, encompassing the most severe form, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), and less severe forms including partial fetal alcohol syndrome (pFAS) and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND). Children with FAS have poor growth, atypical facial features, and central nervous system problems, and all three conditions require evidence of neurobehavioral impairment for diagnosis.

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Neuroimaging links brain region to poor spatial navigation in children affected by prenatal alcohol exposure

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) describe the range of effects associated with prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE). The most severe forms of FASD are fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and partial fetal alcohol syndrome (PFAS), which have adverse effects on learning and memory and result in observable physical abnormalities, including a distinct pattern of facial dysmorphic features, small head circumference, and growth restriction. Identifying the specific brain regions affected is important to fully understand the impact of PAE. Poor spatial skills are common in children with FASD, and tests of navigation in rodents – and more recently, humans – have linked PAE to impairment in ‘place learning’ (the learning of physical positions or locations of objects). Place learning in rodents and humans depends on the hippocampus, a small seahorse-shaped structure in each side of the brain. The hippocampus is particularly sensitive to PAE and is smaller in people (and rodents) exposed to alcohol in

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Study Highlights Impact of Drinking in Pregnancy and Informs Regional Prevention Strategies

Drinking in pregnancy can harm a developing baby. The term fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) describes the range of effects that can be caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. Children with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), the most severe form, have poor growth, atypical facial features, and central nervous system problems. Less severe forms include partial fetal alcohol syndrome (pFAS) and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND). However, all three require evidence of neurobehavioral impairment affecting cognition or behavior (or both). A recent study in a US Pacific Southwest city estimated that, at a minimum, 2% of first-grade schoolchildren had an FASD. A new report in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research describes the range of FASD among these children and the characteristics of their mothers.

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