Document Detail

Alcohol delays the emergence of the fetal elicited startle response, but only transiently.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  22691707     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
Prenatal exposure to alcohol may exert a significant detrimental effect on the functioning of the individual's brain, however few studies have examined this before birth. This longitudinal study examined the effect of maternal alcohol consumption on the elicited startle response of the fetus. Two groups of fetuses were examined: one whose mothers drank alcohol (approximately 10 units per week); the other whose mothers did not drink alcohol. Fetuses were examined at 29, 32 and 35 weeks gestation and their startle response observed using ultrasound in response to 2 presentations of a pink noise (70-250Hz) at 90dB(A) separated by 30s. Fetuses exposed to alcohol exhibited a weaker startle response at 29 weeks gestation than did fetuses not exposed to alcohol. There was no difference in the response at 32 and 35 weeks gestation. To ensure that the effects were not due to a more general effect of alcohol on fetal movement, a second experiment compared the spontaneous movements (observed on ultrasound for 45 min) of fetuses whose mothers drank alcohol and fetuses of mothers who didn't drink alcohol. There were no differences in movements exhibited by the fetuses. The results suggest that exposure to alcohol delays the emergence of the elicited startle response at 29 weeks gestation but this delay has disappeared by 32 weeks gestation. The possible role of altered neural development, acute exposure to alcohol and disruptions to the fetus's behavioural repertoire, in mediating these effects are discussed.
Peter G Hepper; James C Dornan; Catherine Lynch; Jennifer F Maguire
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article; Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't     Date:  2012-06-09
Journal Detail:
Title:  Physiology & behavior     Volume:  107     ISSN:  1873-507X     ISO Abbreviation:  Physiol. Behav.     Publication Date:  2012 Aug 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2012-07-31     Completed Date:  2013-01-07     Revised Date:  2013-08-27    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  0151504     Medline TA:  Physiol Behav     Country:  United States    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  76-81     Citation Subset:  IM    
Copyright Information:
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Fetal Behaviour Research Centre, School of Psychology, The Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast, BT7 INN, UK.
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MeSH Terms
Acoustic Stimulation / adverse effects
Age Factors
Alcohol Drinking / physiopathology
Animals, Newborn
Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology*
Ethanol / pharmacology*
Fetal Movement / drug effects
Fetus / drug effects*,  physiology
Gestational Age
Longitudinal Studies
Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced,  physiopathology*
Reproducibility of Results
Startle Reaction / drug effects*
Time Factors
Grant Support
5 U24 AA014828/AA/NIAAA NIH HHS; U24 AA014828/AA/NIAAA NIH HHS; //Wellcome Trust
Reg. No./Substance:
0/Central Nervous System Depressants; 64-17-5/Ethanol

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