The Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Behavior: Rodent and Primate Studies
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The use of alcohol by women during pregnancy is a continuing problem. In this review the behavioral effects of prenatal alcohol from animal models are described and related to studies of children and adults with FASD. Studies with monkeys and rodents show that prenatal alcohol exposure adversely affects neonatal orienting, attention and motor maturity, as well as activity level, executive function, response inhibition, and sensory processing later in life. The primate moderate dose behavioral findings fill an important gap between human correlational data and rodent mechanistic research. These animal findings are directly translatable to human findings. Moreover, primate studies that manipulated prenatal alcohol exposure and prenatal stress independently show that prenatal stress exacerbates prenatal alcohol-induced behavioral impairments, underscoring the need to consider stress-induced effects in fetal alcohol research. Studies in rodents and primates show long-term effects of prenatal and developmental alcohol exposure on dopamine system functioning, which could underpin the behavioral effects.