Someone once said this to us: ”Our mother smoked and drank while pregnant for all 8 of us, and there’s nothing wrong with us.”
No, nothing wrong with the entire family on psych meds, in and out of rehab, divorced, migraines, alcoholic, a felony- murder, you-name-it.
It was this comment that got us thinking about the Chicago School of Economics – you know, that economic theory academics used to justify the financial services industry looting everyone? And we theorized that it was all the mid-20th century mothers who were drinking gin and tonics in leopard print hotpants and jungle gardenia perfume who were raising these leaders who grew up to be said academics, or at least rely on them. The suburban fetal-alcohol-induced brain troubles, we supposed, resulted in mass lack of connectivity between intellectual thought and empathic feeling. (One of our posts on that).
Connectivity problems and bad behavior go hand and hand, as far as we can tell, but what causes the frayed and pitted white matter is anyone’s guess, and probably there are lots of causes. Impaired myelination is as good a guess as anything. (E.g., here).
So a recent paper caught our eye because it measures myelin formation in the presence of fetal alcohol. (In mice, anyway).
Here is a figure — just scanning downward, you can see that the brain slices are less detailed and sort of fading out, being brightest at the top row (the controls) and being the most faint at the bottom (the mice having mothers who were exposed to alcohol and iron deficient). The figure illustrates that sufficient maternal iron protects, somewhat, against the harm alcohol does in terms of myelination.
The paper: Rufer ES, Tran TD, Attridge MM, Andrzejewski ME, Flentke GR, Smith SM. Adequacy of maternal iron status protects against behavioral, neuroanatomical, and growth deficits in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47499. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047499. Epub 2012 Oct 19. PubMed PMID: 23094056; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3477151.
Behavioral difficulties correlated with fetal alcohol exposure can be caused by any number of confounding factors – the whole nature/nurture background is tough to parse out. And, we suspect that many with fetal alcohol spectrum conditions are wholly unaware of difficulties (see the quote above).
Given what we guess is the prevalence of mid-20th century suburban fetal alcohol exposure among the ruling class, we wonder how big the effect is on society in general.