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Alcohol 'binges' in rats during early brain development cause circadian rhythm problems

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:

  • First, they demonstrate for the first time that the damaging effects of alcohol exposure during brain development impinge on the part of the brain responsible for circadian rhythmicity, the body's night/day clock and the mechanism through which it regulates various physiological processes throughout the body and types of behaviors.
  • Second, the findings may help shed new light on why many children and adults with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) have altered sleep wake cycles, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders, and display other disruptions in behavior.
  • And third, the changes in circadian rhythms caused by developmental alcohol exposure may affect chronotherapeutic treatment of diseases because the efficacy and side effects of many drugs are known to depend on the time of administration in relation to normal body rhythmicity.

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 developme
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Contact: Sarah Goodwin
ebpress@bellsouth.net
770-270-0989
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
3-Apr-2005


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