Alcohol-Exposed Fetuses Manifest Structural Brain Changes, Study Shows

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome brings the U.S. an expense of $4 billion every year

A study led by Dr. Andrzej Urbanik at Jagiellonian University's Department of Radiology in Krakow, Poland shows that alcohol abuse by pregnant women can lead to changes in the child's brain structure and metabolism.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) which took place on November 25, Science Daily reports.

Polish researchers have used three magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to determine how a mother's alcohol drinking during pregnancy affects the development of the baby's nervous system.

The experiment consisted of observing the physiologic evolution of 200 babies exposed to alcohol while unborn, compared to that of 30 unexposed children.

Using MRI, scientists examined the size of the colossal commissure (or “corpus callosum”), the nerve fibers that establish the communication between the left and right side of the brain.

They have concluded that alcohol abuse determines corpus callossum's unbalanced development or even its total absence from the brain.

“These changes are strongly associated with psychological problems in children,” explained Dr. Urbanik.

Scientists used hydrogen magnetic resonance spectroscopy (HMRS) to examine the metabolism in the children's brain, which has also shown a wide range of changes in babies exposed to alcohol during their fetal stage of existence.

“In individual cases, we found a high degree of metabolic changes that were specific for particular locations within the brain,” declared Dr. Urbanik.

All the above changes include in a disease known as the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).

FAS is the major cause of mental retardation known around the world. Research shows an FAS prevalence rate of 0.2-2 in every 100 births in Europe and the United States.

The lifetime costs for attending FAS affected people are estimated to $800,000 (617,015 Euro) per child. The United States have estimated to have an expense of $4 billion (3.08 billion Euro) annually.

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