Drinking in pregnancy affects baby’s brain

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From Irishhealth.com

By Deborah Condon

The structure of children’s brains appears to be different if they are exposed to alcohol while in the womb, new research suggests.

According to Polish scientists, advancements in MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) allow for an even greater assessment of the effects of alcohol on the central nervous system of children, whose mothers drank while pregnant.

In this case, they used three different MRI techniques on 200 children who had been exposed to alcohol while in the womb and 30 children who had not.

The scientists looked specifically at the corpus callosum, a group of nerve fibres that allow for communication between the left and right hand side of the brain.

It is already known that exposure to alcohol in the womb is the main cause of the absence or impaired development of the corpus callosum.

The study found that the corpus callosums of the children who had been exposed to alcohol while in the womb were significantly thinner than those of the children not exposed to alcohol.

According to the scientists from Krakow, these changes  ‘are strongly associated with psychological problems in children’.

Meanwhile, they also used diffusion weighted imaging (DWI), which can be better than MRI at detecting tissue abnormalities.

Among the children who had been exposed to alcohol, these scans indicated  ‘neurological disorders or damage to the brain tissue’.

Details of these findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.