Early ethanol exposure profoundly impacts the developing nervous system through both
structural and functional neuroadaptations.
Ethanol-induced effects (both acute and lasting) depend upon the developmental stage
of the organism, with a particular focus on two key times when the developing brain
is particularly likely to be exposed to alcohol — via maternal use during the fetal
period, and through voluntary drinking in adolescence.
Alcohol exposure during more than one developmental phase or when combined with other
adverse developmental experiences has particularly pronounced consequences, altering
developmental trajectories through multiple routes and developmentally programming
later responsiveness to alcohol to promote an increased propensity for later alcohol
use and abuse.
Characterizing factors influencing and mechanisms underlying developmental consequences
of alcohol are critical for developing new intervention/prevention strategies.