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Fetal Alcohol and Taste

May 22, 2014

Fetal exposure to alcohol alters the way rats taste it in adolescence.



Fetal alcohol and future tastes. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Fetal alcohol exposure increases the risk of alcohol abuse later in life. Now, a study in rats suggests that physical changes in taste sensors may be involved.  Sensory physiologist John Glendinning of Barnard College, along with neuroscientist Steve Youngentob of SUNY Upstate Medical University, looked at the responsiveness of taste nerves in rats exposed to fetal alcohol.

JOHN GLENDINNING (Barnard College):

What we found was a very dramatic reduction in responsiveness to ethanol, and to the bitter and sweet tastes of ethanol to the rat.

It’s possible that selectively reducing these tastes makes alcohol seem milder and less off-putting at first. That could explain Glendinning and Youngentob’s past finding: that rats exposed to alcohol in the womb were much more receptive to their first taste of it as adolescents.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.