Biomedical Updates

Resveratrol Protects Against Prenatal Alcohol Exposure

Exposure to ethanol occurring during a period of increased synaptogenesis, known as the “brain growth spurt” in prenatal growth, has been associated with significant impairments in attention, learning, and memory in humans. In infant rats, recent studies demonstrate that the administration of ethanol to infant rats during their synaptogenesis period (first 2 weeks after birth) can cause extensive neurodegeneration throughout the developing brain and results in cognitive dysfunctions as the animal matures.

A current study was designed to investigate the effect of resveratrol, a polyphenolic phytoalexin present in red wine, on alcohol-induced cognitive deficits and neuronal apoptosis (cell death) in rat pups exposed to ethanol shortly after birth.1 Pups administered ethanol showed impaired memory performance in two maze tests, including the Morris water maze.

Behavioral deficits in these rats were associated with enhanced acetylcholinesterase activity (reducing available acetylcholine), along with increased oxidative-nitrosative stress, cytokine, nuclear factor kappa beta and caspase 3 levels in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus. However, when the pups were treated with resveratrol (10 and 20 mg/kg), there were significantly reductions of all the alcohol attributed behavioral, biochemical and molecular changes in different brain regions of ethanol administered pups. Resveratrol blocked activation of the nuclear factor kappa beta pathway and apoptotic signaling, thus preventing cognitive deficits in rats postnatally exposed to ethanol. This is a major finding.


  1. Tiwari V, Chopra K. Resveratrol prevents alcohol-induced cognitive deficits and brain damage by blocking inflammatory signaling and cell death cascade in neonatal rat brain. J Neurochem 2011 May;117(4):678-90.

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