Ethanol neurotoxicity and dentate gyrus development
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Maternal alcohol ingestion during pregnancy adversely affects the developing fetus, often leading to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). One of the most severe consequences of FAS is brain damage that is manifested as cognitive, learning, and behavioral deficits. The hippocampus plays a crucial role in such abilities; it is also known as one of the brain regions most vulnerable to ethanol-induced neurotoxicity. Our recent studies using morphometric techniques have further shown that ethanol neurotoxicity appears to affect the development of the dentate gyrus in a region-specific manner; it was found that early postnatal ethanol exposure causes a transitory deficit in the hilus volume of the dentate gyrus. It is strongly speculated that such structural modifications, even transitory ones, appear to result in developmental abnormalities in the brain circuitry and lead to the learning disabilities observed in FAS children. Based on reports on possible factors deciding ethanol neurotoxicity to the brain, we review developmental neurotoxicity to the dentate gyrus of the hippocampal formation.
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