Why does prenatal alcohol exposure increase the likelihood of addiction?

The Prevention Conversation: A Shared Responsibility Project

Newborn_Thinker

One of the many negative consequences when fetuses are exposed to alcohol in the womb is an increased risk for drug addiction later in life. Neuroscientists in the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions are discovering why.

Through a research grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Senior Research Scientist Roh-Yu Shen, PhD, is studying how prenatal alcohol exposure alters the reward system in the brain and how this change continues through adulthood.

The key appears to lie with endocannibinoids, cannabis-like chemicals that are produced by the brain itself.

“By understanding the role endocannibinoids play in increasing the brain’s susceptibility to addiction, we can start developing drug therapies or other interventions to combat that effect and, perhaps, other negative consequences of prenatal alcohol exposure,” Shen says.

Prenatal alcohol exposure is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and…

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