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Keywords:

  • fetal alcohol syndrome;
  • prenatal alcohol exposure;
  • brain;
  • magnetic resonance imaging

Abstract

The detrimental effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on the developing brain include structural brain anomalies as well as cognitive and behavioral deficits. Initial neuroimaging studies of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) confirmed previous autopsy reports of overall reduction in brain volume and central nervous system (CNS) disorganization, with specific structural abnormalities of the corpus callosum, cerebellum, caudate, and hippocampus. Advances in neuroimaging techniques have allowed detection of regional increases in cortical thickness and gray matter volume along with decreased volume and disorganization of white matter in individuals with FASD. In addition, functional imaging studies have found functional and neurochemical differences in those prenatally exposed to alcohol. Behavioral alterations noted in individuals with FASD are consistent with the findings noted in the brain imaging studies. Continued neuroimaging studies are needed to further advance understanding of the neuroteratogenic effects of alcohol. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc. Dev Disabil Res Rev 2009;15:209–217.