Low to Moderate Average Alcohol Consumption and Binge Drinking in Early Pregnancy: Effects on Choice Reaction Time and Information Processing Time in Five-Year-Old Children

PLoS One. 2015 Sep 18;10(9):e0138611. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0138611. eCollection 2015.


Background: Deficits in information processing may be a core deficit after fetal alcohol exposure. This study was designed to investigate the possible effects of weekly low to moderate maternal alcohol consumption and binge drinking episodes in early pregnancy on choice reaction time (CRT) and information processing time (IPT) in young children.

Method: Participants were sampled based on maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. At the age of 60-64 months, 1,333 children were administered a modified version of the Sternberg paradigm to assess CRT and IPT. In addition, a test of general intelligence (WPPSI-R) was administered.

Results: Adjusted for a wide range of potential confounders, this study showed no significant effects of average weekly maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy on CRT or IPT. There was, however, an indication of slower CRT associated with binge drinking episodes in gestational weeks 1-4.

Conclusion: This study observed no significant effects of average weekly maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy on CRT or IPT as assessed by the Sternberg paradigm. However, there were some indications of CRT being associated with binge drinking during very early pregnancy. Further large-scale studies are needed to investigate effects of different patterns of maternal alcohol consumption on basic cognitive processes in offspring.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Binge Drinking / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / psychology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*

Grant support

This study was supported primarily by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, Georgia, USA (http://www.cdc.gov/). Additional support was obtained from The Danish National Board of Health (http://sundhedsstyrelsen.dk/en), the Danish Council for Independent Research (Medical Sciences) (http://ufm.dk/en/research-and-innovation/councils-and-commissions/the-danish-council-for-independent-research/the-council-1/the-danish-council-for-independent-research-medical-sciences), the Lundbeck Foundation (http://www.lundbeckfoundation.com/), the Health Insurance Foundation (http://www.helsefonden.dk/pages.asp?id=63), Ludvig & Sara Elsass’ Foundation (http://elsassfonden.dk/), Aase & Ejnar Danielsen’s Foundation (http://www.danielsensfond.dk/Default.aspx), and Direktør Jacob Madsen & hustru Olga Madsen’s Foundation.