Prenatal alcohol exposure can alter circadian rhythms in offspring

  • Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders exhibit altered sleeping and eating patterns, as well as other behavioral problems such as attention deficits and depression.
  • Alterations in these behaviors may indicate that their biological rhythms, which are controlled by circadian systems, have been affected by alcohol exposure during development.
  • Rodent research confirms that alcohol exposure during a period equivalent to the third human trimester influences the ability to synchronize circadian rhythms to light cues.

Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) suffer from a variety of behavioral alterations. For example, they may exhibit alterations in sleeping and eating patterns, which may indicate that their circadian systems which control biological rhythms have been affected by alcohol exposure during development. A rodent study in the May issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research confirms that alcohol exposure during a period equivalent to the third human trimester influences the ability to synchronize circadian rhythms to light cues.

"Human infants with FASD may suffer from sleep disorders, including a reduced amount of sleep, abnormal brain wave activity, and fragmented rapid eye movement and slow-wave sleep, which may be related, in part, to circadian dysregulation," explained Jennifer D. Thomas, associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University and corresponding author for the study. "Disruptions in circadian rhythms can also influence other behaviors, including attention and mood regulation. In fact, individuals with FASD may suffer from depression and other psychopathologies." Although sleeping, eating and mood can be influenced by many factors, she said, the circadian systems are responsible for coordinating multiple physiological systems with environmental cues.

"Most of our body processes are regulated in the circadian fashion," concurred D


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