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Sobering Work

Unraveling alcohol's effects on the developing brain

6:00pm, February 5, 2003

At parties, young women often want to talk to James R. West. Sure, he's a charming guy, but they especially want to talk about his work—and how it may touch them personally. The issue is potentially close at hand: West studies the effects of alcohol on a baby's developing brain.

"People always ask me, How much is too much?" says West, a neurobiologist at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center in College Station. "We don't really know."

A decade ago, scientists thought there would be a straightforward answer. But recent findings indicate that alcohol doesn't have a single threshold as it acts on different bi

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