Research NewsFetal Alcohol Syndrome

New Experiments Underscore Warnings on Maternal Drinking

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  09 Aug 1996:
Vol. 273, Issue 5276, pp. 738-739
DOI: 10.1126/science.273.5276.738


Fetal alcohol syndrome, which is caused by heavy drinking during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation in the developed world. But exactly how much drinking is too much has been unclear. Now, recent findings suggest that even the kinds of alcohol concentrations produced in the blood by moderate drinking—defined as one to three drinks per day—can have deleterious effects on brain neurons. They may cause neurons to stick less well to one another, for example, and reduce long term potentiation, a strengthening of synaptic connections believed to play a role in learning.