Effect of Alcohol on Brain Development

What does alcohol actually do to the brain, and how does this translate into behavioral and learning dysfunction? Scientists have made tremendous progress in understanding how alcohol damages the brain, and only recently have they begun to put together this complex puzzle.

Unlike many organs in the body, the brain is exquisitely sensitive to alcohol throughout pregnancy. The timing of fetal exposure to alcohol and the ongoing developmental processes within the fetal brain will dictate the appearance and severity of structural abnormalities within the brain, as well as future behavioral and neuropsychological dysfunction. Although the entire fetal brain is exposed to alcohol when the mother drinks, it is not affected globally. As discussed above, specific regions are affected differently, depending on the ongoing developmental processes in those regions.