Sleep changes seen with fetal alcohol exposure partly explain learning and mood problems

Posted on February 29, 2016

Photo: flickr

When combined with the findings of past studies in humans, the current study in mice suggests a new treatment approach for individuals suffering from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which is linked to learning, memory and mood problems, and is estimated to affect 1 in 100 adults.

According to the authors of the new study, exposure of a developing brain to binge levels of alcohol results in a permanent fragmentation in slow-wave sleep, with the extent of the fragmentation influencing the severity of related cognitive disorders.

"We have known for a long time that sleep fragmentation is associated with impaired cognitive function, attention and emotional regulation," says Donald Wilson, PhD, a professor in NYU Langone's Departments of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Neuroscience and Physiology, and a member of the NKI. "Our study shows for the first time that binge alcohol exposure early in life results in long-lasting slow-wave sleep fragmentation, which, in turn, is associated with learning problems."

"It appears that some of the consequences of fetal alcohol syndrome stem from changes in the brain's ability to regulate sleep," he adds.

"Targeting therapeutic interventions toward sleep may help to relieve aspects of the diverse disorders linked to fetal alcohol exposure, and may open new avenues for treatment of this far too common condition," says Wilson.

Category(s):Child Development, Depression, Learning Difficulties, Mood Swings / Bipolar

Source material from NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine

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