Studies suggest brain injury results from developmental exposure to alcohol, anesthesia, and lead

hat they cannot tend to their task of forming synaptic connections. Other drugs that trigger neuroapoptosis in the developing brain are used as sedatives and anticonvulsants; some are drugs that women abuse while pregnant.

Olney and Susser noted that more work is needed to demonstrate whether lead has the same effect on the developing brain as the substances tested by Olney and his research group. "We're identifying factors that are most likely to cause apoptosis, and we're looking to see how it relates to schizophrenia," said Susser, whose work recently was published online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (M. Opler, A. Brown, J. Graziano, et al, "Prenatal Lead Exposure, d- Aminolevulinic Acid, and Schizophrenia." In Press).

Olney and Susser indicated that they view developmental neuroapoptosis as a "final common pathway" type of mechanism which, regardless how it is activated, has considerable potential to disrupt brain development and give rise to a wide variety of neuropsychiatric disturbances.

In applying his findings to humans, Olney points to the work of Ann P. Streissguth, who also is one of the speakers on the panel. Streissguth has followed the impact of maternal alcohol use on the offspring of a group of women who were pregnant in 1974. She will report findings on the extent of "secondary disabilities" in people with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects, noting that 90 percent of people exposed to alcohol in the womb reported mental health problems.

"Many had attention deficit problems, strikingly high psychoses, suicide attempts and suicide ideation," Streissguth said.


Contact: Monica Amarelo
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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