Mechanisms Underlying Cognitive Impairment Induced by Prenatal Alcohol Exposure

Alhowail, A. Mechanisms Underlying Cognitive Impairment Induced by Prenatal Alcohol Exposure. Brain Sci. 2022, 12, 1667.


Alcohol is one of the most commonly used illicit substances among pregnant women. Clinical and experimental studies have revealed that prenatal alcohol exposure affects fetal brain development and ultimately results in the persistent impairment of the offspring’s cognitive functions. Despite this, the rate of alcohol use among pregnant women has been progressively increasing.

Various aspects of human and animal behavior, including learning and memory, are dependent on complex interactions between multiple mechanisms, such as receptor function, mitochondrial function, and protein kinase activation, which are especially vulnerable to alterations during the developmental period. Thus, the exploration of the mechanisms that are altered in response to prenatal alcohol exposure is necessary to develop an understanding of how homeostatic imbalance and various long-term neurobehavioral impairments manifest following alcohol abuse during pregnancy.

There is evidence that prenatal alcohol exposure results in vast alterations in mechanisms such as long-term potentiation, mitochondrial function, and protein kinase activation in the brain of offspring. However, to the best of our knowledge, there are very few recent reviews that focus on the cognitive effects of prenatal alcohol exposure and the associated mechanisms. Therefore, in this review, we aim to provide a comprehensive summary of the recently reported alterations to various mechanisms following alcohol exposure during pregnancy, and to draw potential associations with behavioral changes in affected offspring.

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