Aetiology

Twin studies suggest that there are genetic risks for fetal alcohol syndrome. Microcephaly is commonly reported in fetal alcohol syndrome and suggests an underdevelopment of the brain. Neuropathological studies demonstrate the underdevelopment or absence of the corpus callosum and enlarged lateral ventricles. Ferrer and Galofre(29> observed decreased numbers of dendritic spines on the apical dendrites and abnormal morphology of the spines on the apical and basilar dendrites of cortical pyramidal cells in a 4-month-old with fetal alcohol syndrome. These neuropathological changes are of interest because dendritic spine abnormalities have been reported in mental retardation syndromes such as Down syndrome. Dendritic changes have also been observed in animals with prenatal exposure to alcohol; these changes were correlated with decreased learning ability. Magnetic resonance imaging studies have documented brain abnormalities in fetal alcohol syndrome.(30)

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