Researchers from American Institute of Physics have recently found that children who were exposed to alcohol while in the womb showed altered brain connections that were consistent with intellectual disability.
Their findings were reached by measuring the responses from a brain imaging technique called magneto encephalography (MEG) and then analysing them with tools developed using chaos theory.
With this study, the researchers have taken one of the first major steps in finding the biological changes in the brain that drive fatal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
FASD is one of the leading causes of intellectual disability worldwide and is linked to a wide array of neurological issues, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Previous attempts to study the brain circuitry in affected individuals had been hampered by the difficulty of drawing conclusions from complicated MEG data.
To get to the heart of the problem, members of the team developed a sophisticated computer technique called Cortical Start Spatio-Temporal multidipole analysis that could identify which areas of the brain were active when research subjects were in the MEG machine.
After data from 19 FASD patients and 21 subjects without FASD was collected, the computational approach revealed several areas of the brain that showed impaired connectivity among the FASD group.
The findings show that teenagers who were exposed to alcohol in the womb were more likely to have issues with connections through their corpus callosum, the band of brain tissue that connects the left and right halves of the brain. Deficits in this area have been reported in people with schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, autism, depression and abnormalities in sensation.
Findings of this study are consistent with warnings from Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) that there is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant. The CDCP also emphasises that there is no safe time during pregnancy to drink and that all types of alcohol are harmful, including all wines and beer.
More importantly, medical researchers have disclosed that when a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her baby. They therefore advise pregnant women to completely abstain from drinking alcohol.