Caffeine, a plant alkaloid contained in many beverages, is the most consumed stimulant of the central nervous system. Carla Silva, Aix Marseille Université, France, and colleagues, investigated whether caffeine consumption during pregnancy influences the embryonic development of the nervous system.
The scientists revealed that the formation of the hippocampus, an area of the brain that controls short and long-term memory, is detrimentally affected by exposure to caffeine. As hippocampal abnormalities are often associated to epilepsy, young mice born from caffeine-treated mothers showed an increased susceptibility to epileptic seizures. Moreover, during adulthood these mice suffered from memory deficits. Caffeine’s deleterious effects on the neural development are most likely due to its ability to antagonize adenosine, a purine nucleoside that regulates the transmission of signals among neurons.
According to the authors, this study raises concerns about the consumption of caffeine during human pregnancy.
- Adenosine Receptor Antagonists Including Caffeine Alter Fetal Brain Development in Mice,
C. G. Silva, C. Metin, W. Fazeli, N. J. Machado, S. Darmopil, P.-S. Launay, A. Ghestem, M.-P. Nesa, E. Bassot, E. Szabo, Y. Baqi, C. E. Muller, A. R. Tome, A. Ivanov, D. Isbrandt, Y. Zilberter, R. A. Cunha, M. Esclapez, C. Bernard,
Sci. Transl. Med. 2013, 5, 197ra104.