Alcohol exposure in the womb affects 'teenage' booze behavior

January 15, 2009,

Rats whose mothers were fed alcohol during pregnancy are more attracted to the smell of liquor during puberty. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Behavioral and Brain Functions have shown that rats exposed during gestation find the smell of alcohol on another rat's breath during adolescence more attractive than animals with no prior fetal exposure.

Professor Steven Youngentob from the State University of New York Upstate Medical University, USA, led a team of researchers who investigated the social and behavioral effects of fetal ethanol exposure in adolescent and adult rats. He said, "The findings by Amber Eade in my lab reveal that fetal ethanol exposure influences adolescent re-exposure, in part, by promoting interactions with intoxicated peers. These results highlight an important relationship between fetal and adolescent experiences that appears essential to the progressive development of alcohol abuse."

Fetal ethanol experience is believed to train the developing sense of smell to find ethanol odor more attractive. The authors describe how, in both rats and humans, fetal exposure changes how the odor and flavor of ethanol are perceived. They write, " Such learning may be a fundamental feature of all mammalian species because it is important (from a survival standpoint) for the pre-weanling animal to accept and be attracted to the food sources consumed by the mother". In this study the authors found that rats unexposed to ethanol were significantly less likely to follow an intoxicated peer than those with gestational experience.

The authors also found that the behavioural effects of fetal ethanol were not seen in otherwise unexposed adult rats. They say that this shows adolescence is a key time for perpetuating fetal experiences. According to Youngentob, "Such a proposition is clinically relevant since, in humans, adolescence is a key transition point for emergent patterns of alcohol abuse".

Speculating further on this study's implications for human problem drinking, Youngentob added, "Within the context of 'at risk' adolescents, prior exposure to ethanol may, among other things, worsen the consequences of alcohol-related social interaction by increasing teenagers' propensity to engage in such settings".

Paper: The consequence of fetal ethanol exposure and adolescent odor re-exposure on the response to ethanol odor in adolescent and adult rats, Amber M Eade, Paul R Sheehe, Juan C Molina, Norman E Spear, Lisa M Youngentob and Steven L Youngentob, Behavioral and Brain Functions (in press), www.behavioralandbrainfunctions.com

Source: BioMed Central

Explore further: Sleep changes seen with fetal alcohol exposure partly explain learning and mood problems

Related Stories

Sleep changes seen with fetal alcohol exposure partly explain learning and mood problems

February 24, 2016
Slow-wave sleep - the deeper sleep during which the brain turns each day's events into permanent memories - is fragmented in adulthood in people exposed to high levels of alcohol in the womb.

Signaling pathway linked to fetal alcohol risk: Molecular switch promises new targets for diagnosis, therapy

February 20, 2013
Fetal alcohol syndrome is the leading preventable cause of developmental disorders in developed countries. And fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), a range of alcohol-related birth defects that includes fetal alcohol syndrome, ...

Researchers discover novel risk factor in breast cancer protein 1 (BRCA1) for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

April 5, 2016
Researchers at the University of Toronto have discovered a novel function performed by the breast cancer 1 protein (BRCA1), which regulates DNA repair. Well known for the role it plays in breast and ovarian cancer, this study ...

Analysis of fetal meconium can reveal gestational alcohol exposure

December 15, 2011
In recent years, medical professionals have begun to measure fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs) in meconium as a direct and reliable marker of gestational alcohol exposure during the second and third trimesters. This study extended ...

Fetal alcohol syndrome heart defects may be caused by altered function, not structure

December 30, 2013
Recent data shows that more than 500,000 women in the U.S. report drinking during pregnancy, with about 20 percent of this population admitting to binge drinking. Even one episode of heavy drinking can lead to the collection ...

Excess transcription factor Heat Shock Factor 1 can delay embryonic neural migration

May 2, 2017
Transcription factor Heat Shock Factor 1 (Hsf1), which the developing brain releases to shield the vital organ from the ravages of environmental stress, actually can contribute to impairing the embryonic brain when too much ...

Recommended for you

Clues to obesity's roots found in brain's quality control process

February 20, 2018
Deep in the middle of our heads lies a tiny nub of nerve cells that play a key role in how hungry we feel, how much we eat, and how much weight we gain.

Study looks at how newly discovered gene helps grow blood vessels

February 19, 2018
A new study published today found that a newly discovered gene helps grow blood vessels when it senses inadequate blood flow to tissues.

Scientists produce human intestinal lining that re-creates living tissue inside organ-chip

February 16, 2018
Investigators have demonstrated how cells of a human intestinal lining created outside an individual's body mirror living tissue when placed inside microengineered Intestine-Chips, opening the door to personalized testing ...

Data wave hits health care

February 16, 2018
Technology used by Facebook, Google and Amazon to turn spoken language into text, recognize faces and target advertising could help doctors fight one of the deadliest infections in American hospitals.

Researcher explains how statistics, neuroscience improve anesthesiology

February 16, 2018
It's intuitive that anesthesia operates in the brain, but the standard protocol among anesthesiologists when monitoring and dosing patients during surgery is to rely on indirect signs of arousal like movement, and changes ...

Team reports progress in pursuit of sickle cell cure

February 16, 2018
Scientists have successfully used gene editing to repair 20 to 40 percent of stem and progenitor cells taken from the peripheral blood of patients with sickle cell disease, according to Rice University bioengineer Gang Bao.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.