Alcohol: Can it cause ADD/ADHD?

Attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder may be the result of damage to part of an unborn child's brain that is caused by a mother's alcohol intake during pregnancy, according to a report published in "Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research."

The part of the brain damaged before birth involves a complex communication system between nerve cells. Led by Dr. Roh-Yu Shen, researchers examined the apparent consequences of exposure before birth to alcohol in experimental rats. The researchers found that the electrical activity of dopamine neurons in the brain is

reduced in the offspring of pregnant rats exposed to alcohol. These neurons release dopamine in brain areas responsible for attention.

The researchers believe that attention/hyperactivity problems may be caused by the reduced activity in the dopamine neurons. Dr. Shen noted that substances such as cocaine and antipsychotic medications also reduce dopamine neuron activity and events that disrupt dopamine neurons during fetal development, for example, stress, could lead to dysfunction of these neurons and ADHD.

Source of this article:

Penny Stern, MD, Reuters Health "Prenatal alcohol exposure linked to attention-deficit disorder" Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research 1999;23.


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