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Eating, drinking, socializing or having sex are pleasurable actions that have allowed us humans to survive as a species. But the effect of these pleasurable situations can be “hijacked” by alcohol or other drugs that become the only ones that provide well-being, causing the natural reinforcements to lose their effect. Olga Valverde Granados, researcher and professor at the Department of Medicine and Health Sciences (MELIS) of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, explains.
During pregnancy and lactation, alcohol consumption affects the mother’s well-being, but it also has effects on the future baby, and this is precisely what Olga’s group is studying with an animal model in mice.
Their studies have shown that the offspring of mice that have consumed alcohol to excess (which we would understand as binge drinking) three times during pregnancy and three more times during lactation, have learning difficulties and alterations at the motivational level.
“Despite having no weight changes or morphological changes, the offspring of mothers who have consumed alcohol have learning disorders, psychiatric and emotional disorders and a greater predisposition to develop addictions to any type of substance,” explains the researcher. Invisible changes that persist into adulthood. The fact is that the brain is a growing organ until youth. Therefore, the consumption of alcohol or other intoxicants by the mother during gestation and lactation has an impact on the brain development of the offspring.
Although the studies of Olga’s group are done on mice, the translation of the results to humans is inevitable. According to Valverde, “there is a great lack of knowledge of this type of effects on children whose mothers have consumed alcohol, even sporadically, which adds to a lack of diagnosis”. A particularly worrying scenario “in a Mediterranean country, where celebrations are often related to alcohol consumption”. This is why we want to explain our research. “So that women are aware of the harm caused by alcohol,” concludes the professor.
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