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Neurology. 2001 Jul 24;57(2):235-44.

Mapping callosal morphology and cognitive correlates: effects of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure.

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Laboratory of NeuroImaging, Department of Neurology, University of California, Los Angeles 90095-1769, USA.



Abnormalities of the corpus callosum (CC) have been documented in fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), ranging from subtle decrements in its size to partial and even complete agenesis. Prenatal exposure to alcohol is also known to result in neurocognitive deficits.


To 1) investigate abnormalities in size, shape, and location of the CC within the brain in individuals with FAS and in those exposed to high amounts of alcohol prenatally but without FAS (PEA group); and 2) determine if there is a relationship between callosal dysmorphology and cognitive test performance.


MRI and novel surface-based image analytic methods were used. Twenty alcohol-exposed subjects (8 to 22 years) along with 21 normal controls (8 to 25 years) were studied with high-resolution MRI and measures of verbal learning and visuospatial abilities.


In addition to callosal area reductions, most severe in the splenium, the CC is significantly displaced in patients exposed to alcohol prenatally. In the alcohol-exposed group, this structure lies more anterior and inferior in posterior regions with relatively normal localization of anterior regions. These findings are significant in the FAS group, and a similar but less severe pattern is observed in the PEA patients. The authors show that the amount of CC displacement is correlated with impairment in verbal learning ability and that CC displacement is a better predictor of verbal learning than regional CC area. The brain-behavior relationship is only significant within the alcohol-exposed group, and the effect is not solely mediated by overall impaired verbal intellectual functioning.


These results further emphasize the vulnerability of midline brain structures to prenatal alcohol exposure.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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