Fetal alcohol syndrome was first described in France in the late 1960s and in the United States a few years later.
Today, out of each 10,000 children born in the United States, between 3 and 30 suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome.
Their mother's drinking has affected their central nervous system as well: Fetal alcohol syndrome is the leading cause of nonhereditary mental retardation.
Many new moms are advised to drink a glass of beer or wine just before nursing to boost their milk production, yet the evidence linking alcohol to increased lactation remains problematic, Mennella notes.
To get an idea of how babies react to a nip of alcohol in mother's milk, the team studied 12 nursing mothers and their infants.
Then they gave six of the women a glass of pure orange juice, and six a glass of orange juice spiked with grain alcohol.
Alcohol sensitivity is a property of the cerebellar tissue, says Barry Hoffer of the University of Colorado Alcohol Research Center in Denver.
The Scripps group finds that in normal rats an intoxicating dose of alcohol increases the activity of one major source of input to Purkinje cells, the nerve processes called climbing fibers.