Consuming Alcohol During Pregnancy Impeded Brain Development, Study Finds

In Education

According to a recent MRI study, drinking alcohol when someone is pregnant, even in moderate to low quantities, can affect the baby’s brain anatomy and impede brain growth. The findings were presented recently at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting (RSNA).

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy affects fetal brain development 

The Medical University of Vienna in Austria’s associate radiology professor from the Biomedical Imaging and Image-guided Therapy Department, Gregor Kasprian, stated that fetal MRI is a safe and highly specialized technique that allows people to make precise statements regarding brain development prenatally.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are a range of ailments that can affect the fetus if alcohol is consumed while pregnant. Infants born with these disorders may experience behavioural issues, speech and language impairments, or learning challenges.

Lead study author Patric Kienast, a student at the Medical University of Vienna, said that it is surprising that most pregnant women are unaware of alcohol’s influence on the fetus during pregnancy. He explained that it is vital for more research to be conducted and educate the public regarding alcohol’s effects on the fetus. 

Researchers evaluated MRI exams of 24 fetuses that had prenatal alcohol exposure. When they were conducting the MRI, the foetuses were between 22 and 36 weeks of gestation. Additionally, the researcher determined alcohol exposure through anonymous surveys of mothers. The T-ACE Screening Tool and Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) surveillance project were used to assess the mothers. 

Fetal brain changes witnessed in the temporal brain region and STS

Dr Kasprian said they found the most significant change in the STS and temporal region of the brain. He explained that the area and the STS formation considerably influence language development in early childhood years. Even at low amounts of alcohol exposure, brain changes were witnessed.

According to Kienast, there were significant changes in foetuses of 17 out of the 24 mothers that infrequently consumed alcohol or less than one drink in a week. Researchers indicate that delayed fetal brain development is related to delayed myelination and indistinct gyrification in the occipital and frontal lobes.

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