Science  09 Aug 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6146, pp. 597

You are currently viewing the .

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution

  1. Just a Cup for Pregnant Moms?


    A new study in mice suggests that caffeine could influence fetal brain development.


    Moderate caffeine consumption—one to two cups a day—doesn't promote premature births or miscarriages or harm fetal growth, according to a 2010 review. But a new study in mice suggests that at larger doses, caffeine can impair memory.

    Caffeine can block the activity of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that acts as a brake on neuronal firing and makes us sleepy. Carla Silva, a neuroscientist, and colleagues at INSERM in Marseille, France, used caffeine to study how adenosine affects fetal brain development. During mammals' development, GABA neurons, which help regulate the brain's flow of information, migrate to the hippocampus, key to memory and learning.

    Silva and colleagues gave female mice caffeine-laced water—enough to mimic a human drinking three to four cups of coffee a day—prior to pregnancy, throughout pregnancy, and during nursing. The drug-exposed pups showed a significant decrease in several subtypes of GABA neurons in the hippocampus, the team reports this week in Science Translational Medicine. As adults, they performed poorly on memory tests and were more susceptible to seizures. Still, the findings may not hold in humans, Silva says: "This study is not enough to give advice to pregnant women."