Over the past five years, Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) has begun to provide
new evidence about the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on white matter
development. DTI, which examines microstructural tissue integrity, is more sensitive to
subtle white matter abnormalities than traditional volumetric MRI methods. Thus far, the
available DTI data suggest that white matter microstructural abnormalities fall on a
continuum of severity in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Abnormalities are
prominent in the corpus callosum, but also evident in major anterior-posterior fiber
bundles, corticospinal tracts, and cerebellum. These subtle abnormalities are correlated
with neurocognitive deficits, especially in processing speed, non-verbal ability, and
The two studies presented here provide evidence of microstructural anomalies in
the brains of children who were prenatally exposed to alcohol and demonstrate that those
anomalies are associated with disruptions in functional brain connectivity. The majority
of the patients in these two investigations were children who did not meet full criteria for
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Thus, these data provide evidence that there are genuine
consequences of moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy even in the absence of
the full syndrome. Ultimately, these types of sensitive brain measures may serve as
indices of change in future longitudinal studies and in studies of interventions for FASD.
University of Minnesota M.S. thesis. May 2011. Major: Clinical research. Advisor: Kelvin O. Lim, M.D., 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 65 pages.
Wozniak, Jeffrey Robert.
Structural and functional brain abnormalities in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).
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