Alcohol and Alcoholism: Effects on Brain and Development

Alcohol and Alcoholism: Effects on Brain and Development

Alcohol and Alcoholism: Effects on Brain and Development

Alcohol and Alcoholism: Effects on Brain and Development

Synopsis

This is the first volume that focuses on the lifespan neurobehavioral factors likely to determine susceptibility to alcohol abuse and its consequences. The chapters offer careful analysis of the effects of ethanol on the fetus, the infant, the adolescent, and the adult. The authors include behavioral neuroscientists and clinical neuropsychologists. Their topics range from the neurochemical and neuroanatomical consequences of prenatal alcohol to the cognitive consequences of prenatal alcohol on preschool and school-age children. The impact of genetics on sensitivity to alcohol is considered in terms of analytic tests using techniques of behavioral genetics and molecular biology. The consequences of exposure to alcohol during breastfeeding are described in experiments with human infants. The alcoholism that develops in adulthood is analyzed through the experimental study of relapse from alcohol deprivation and assessment of neuropsychological impairments and treatment for alcoholics. Drawing on extensive research that has applied techniques from molecular neurobiology and tests of learning and memory to the clinical assessment and treatment of alcoholics.

The volume answers recent questions raised by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute of Drug Abuse about the role of early experience in susceptibility to later abuse of alcohol and other drugs. Although epidemiological studies can describe the problem, solutions in terms of mechanisms that mediate these effects will be found only with the kinds of experimentally oriented approaches the chapter authors describe.

Excerpt

In theory, basic research on questions in the biomedical or biobehavioral sciences, such as how cells grow, or how neurons communicate biochemically, or how infants learn, provides the knowledge with which "real-life" problems can be solved. The knowledge is applied to the problems. In theory, research directly on clinical problems, such as abnormal cell growth, or alcoholism, or mental retardation, spawns methods and models and information that each illuminate the foundations of biology, physiology, and psychology. Solving problems leads to knowledge. In practice, both efforts in science operate simultaneously. Ideally, the basic and the clinical complement, inform, and facilitate each other.

This volume is an example of how well that interaction between basic and clinical research works. The questions and problems concern brain development and early learning, fetal alcohol effects, the acquisition of responses to alcohol, and alcoholism treatment. Because these are all very complex questions and problems, the answers and research are complex as well. In general, the chapters form a well focused collection of both human-clinical (chapters 1, 9, & 11) and basic-animal research (chapters 2 through 8 & 10). The research is both multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary.

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