The toxic effects of alcohol on the fetal brain were first established in France in 1968 and in the United States in 1973 by David Smith, a West Coast pediatrician. The unraveling of this relationship has followed a traditional history- the problem was first brought to attention when infants born to mothers with high alcohol intakes were noticed to have characteristic features: impaired growth, flat face, long upper lip, and mental retardation. This set of dysmorphic features was termed the fetal alcohol syndrome. Investigators then began to examine the effects of lower doses. This kind of question can only be addressed by following sizable samples of infants over long periods of time. The pioneer in this effort has been Dr. Anne Streissguth, whose studies have unequivocally established that small doses of alcohol taken during pregnancy are associated with cognitive and attention dysfunction in offspring in later life.

Tags: Alcohol, Brain, Fetal, Toxic

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