Several explanations for the diverse results in research on foetal alcohol spectrum disorders or alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder might be at hand: timing, amount and patterns of alcohol exposure, as well as complex epigenetic responses. The genetic background of the offspring and its interaction with other prenatal and post-natal environmental cues are likely also of importance. In the present report, key findings about the possible effects of low and moderate doses of maternal alcohol intake on the neuropsychological development of the offspring are reviewed and plausible mechanisms discussed. Special focus is put on the serotonergic system within developmental and gene-environment frameworks. The review also suggests guidelines for future studies and also summarizes some of to-be-answered questions of relevance to clinical practice. Contradictory findings and paucity of studies on the effects of exposure to low alcohol levels during foetal life for the offspring's neuropsychological development call for large prospective studies, as well as for studies including neuroimaging and multi-omics analyses to dissect the neurobiological underpinnings of alcohol exposure-related phenotypes and to identify biomarkers. Finally, it remains to be investigated whether any safe threshold of alcohol drinking during pregnancy can be identified.
Keywords: alcohol; development; epigenetics; gene; pregnancy; prenatal.
© 2017 Scandinavian Physiological Society. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.