Impact Of Alcohol On The Developing Brain – Home » Chapter 3: Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Brain Development and Post-natal Function » Brain Regions Important in the Neuropsychological Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure

In the past, scientists theorized that the neuropsychological effects in FASD children were due to damage to specific brain structures. Now by using MRI to look at damage in living subjects, researchers are conducting studies to link specific brain region structural damage to specific neuropsychological deficits in FASD children. A review of areas most affected by prenatal alcohol exposure and related neuropsychological problems follows.

Impact Of Alcohol On The Developing Brain

Impact Of Alcohol On The Developing Brain

The cerebral cortex (the outer part of the brain, see figure at right) is responsible for many functions that involve a high level of control and organization. Such functions include: sensory and motor control, cognitive and abstract thinking, working memory, speech and language, and visual and auditory perception. Executive function, which depends on working memory, is associated with cortical areas in the frontal lobe (prefrontal cortex). Much of the final circuitry in the cerebral cortex is established during the 3rd trimester, so any or all of these cortical functions may be disrupted if the fetus is exposed to alcohol at this time.

What Are The Long Term Effects Of Alcohol Use On Developing Brains?

The cerebellum (in yellow) is a structure that does not complete its development at birth; It forms its circuitry early in the postnatal period. Fetal alcohol exposure during the 3rd trimester may have significant effects on cerebellar function. In addition to motor control and coordination provided by the cerebellum, there are many other functions. It aids in cognitive processing, acquiring language fluency, task sequencing, and timing awareness and estimation. Children with FASD are dysfunctional in each of these tasks.

The caudate nucleus is part of the basal ganglia. It also plays an important role in motor performance. However, the caudate is also important in cognitive function, motivation, and executive function, or the ability to plan and execute specific tasks. Children with FASD have a particular problem with executive function. The basal ganglia work together with the cerebellum in cognitive and attentional tasks; Damage to the caudate caused by alcohol in utero results in attention deficit problems that manifest in the classroom.

One of the most consistent defects in brain structure in people with FASD is a reduction in size, change in shape, or complete absence of the corpus callosum. MRIs of normal children and examples of FAS children with missing corpus callosum are shown in Figure 7 .

This major bundle of nerve fibers connecting the left and right brain is important in timing tasks, motor tasks and coordination. Failure of the corpus callosum to develop properly can lead to slower reaction times and anything from mild cognitive impairment to widespread mental retardation. In an MRI study of children and young adults with FASD, damage to the corpus callosum was specifically associated with verbal learning ability. In another study of adults with FASD, different corpus callosum shapes were associated with deficits in executive function and motor function; Facial dysmorphologies do not matter. Although the corpus callosum is formed by the 10th week of gestation, it develops relatively late after conception (6th or 7th month). Alcohol consumption in the 1st trimester can prevent its formation; Alcohol consumption in the 2nd or 3rd trimester affects its shape and ability to communicate with neurons in cortical areas.

Drinking While Pregnant: Risks, Research, And Recommendations

The main structure in the brain responsible for learning and memory is the hippocampus, but other structures such as the cerebral cortex are also involved. The circuitry of the hippocampus is established very late in gestation, and fetal alcohol exposure during the 3rd trimester (or earlier) can be expected to have significant effects on learning and memory. Alcohol on the Developing Brain – Building children’s confidence in their knowledge and giving them the tools to say “yes” to healthy lifestyles and “no” to underage drinking.

Do your students know how the endocannabinoid system works? Dive deeper into marijuana’s effects on the developing brain with a new suite of prevention education resources from Ask, Listen, Learn in partnership with Discovery Education.

Keep the lines of communication open about saying “NO” to underage drinking and other risky behaviors. No-cost family resources make learning about healthy lifestyles a family affair!

Impact Of Alcohol On The Developing Brain

Get into the science behind how alcohol affects the developing brain and why it’s important to say “NO” to underage drinking and underage marijuana use.

Teenage Alcohol Use: How To Prevent It

We are beginning a series of lessons about how alcohol affects the developing brain. We use lessons and videos that are part of the Ask, Listen, Learn: Kids and Alcohol Don’t Mix program ( Since the program began in 2004, underage drinking rates have decreased as communication between parents and teachers with children has increased. The conversations we have in the classroom and the discussions you have at home are important. This long-term program is intended to get kids talking to their parents and educators, ultimately teaching them to say “yes” to healthy lifestyles and “no” to underage drinking.

Since you are my partner in education and are a prominent influence in your child’s drinking decision, I want to share the materials we use in the classroom and start conversations to make sure you have all the resources to continue. A conversation about the dangers of underage drinking at home.

Throughout this unit, we will watch seven videos about different parts of the brain and how each is affected by alcohol. Each of the seven brainstorming videos includes relevant lesson plans with classroom activities that include both traditional and interactive components and questions for discussion. All the videos and classroom materials we will be using can be found at

Knowing what is being learned in the classroom is a great way to start a discussion at home. Conversations about alcohol responsibility should start early and continue throughout life, but sometimes getting kids to talk can be tricky. In addition to asking your child what they learned in school, look for real-world examples that will get them talking.

Alcohol Brain Damage Symptoms

Newspaper articles or current events about alcohol can serve as ways to raise the issue and share what they are learning. Share your response to these examples and ask your child about them. Provide factual information about how alcohol affects their growing brain and body to reinforce what they are learning in school.

• You know you can call me if you’re ever in a situation that makes you uncomfortable, right?

In addition to reviewing the Ask, Listen, Learn materials we use in our classroom, I also recommend these free resources from Do You Indulge in a Glass of Wine Every Now and Then? You are not alone. More than 85% of adults report drinking alcohol at some point. In 2020, alcohol consumption in the U.S. increased, with heavy drinking among women increasing 41%.

Impact Of Alcohol On The Developing Brain

While moderate or heavy drinking is unlikely to cause health problems, it can affect the brain. And, alcohol abuse can cause deficits over time.

Alcohol Related Brain Damage

Alcohol affects your body quickly. It is absorbed into your bloodstream through the lining of your stomach. Once there, it spreads into tissues throughout your body. Alcohol reaches your brain in just five minutes and affects you within 10 minutes.

After 20 minutes, your liver begins to process the alcohol. On average, the liver can metabolize 1 ounce of alcohol every hour. A blood alcohol level of 0.08, the legal limit for drinking, takes about five and a half hours to leave your system. Alcohol stays in urine for up to 80 hours and in hair follicles for up to three months.

“Intoxication occurs when alcohol consumption exceeds your body’s ability to metabolize and break down alcohol,” says Jeffrey T. Johnson, DO, Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group board-certified specialist in addiction medicine.

Your whole body absorbs alcohol, but it really affects the brain. Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways. It can also affect how your brain processes information.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

The impaired judgment you have while drinking can make you feel like you can still drive regardless of your BAC. Drivers with a BAC of 0.08 or higher are 11 times more likely to die in a single-vehicle crash than drivers who have not been drinking. Some states have higher penalties for people who drive with a high BAC (0.15 to 0.20 or higher) because of the increased risk of fatal accidents.

Your body’s response to alcohol depends on many factors. These include your age, gender, overall health, how much you drink, how long you drink and how often you drink.

Over time, excessive drinking can lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Alcohol abuse increases your risk for certain cancers as well as serious and permanent brain damage. This leads to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS), which is characterized by forgetfulness, extreme confusion, and vision problems.

Impact Of Alcohol On The Developing Brain

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