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Cereb Cortex. 2015 Dec;25(12):4761-71. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhu162. Epub 2014 Aug 4.

Developmental Trajectories for Visuo-Spatial Attention are Altered by Prenatal Alcohol Exposure: A Longitudinal FMRI Study.

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Developmental Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory, Department of Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine at USC/Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
Department of Neurology, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
Department of Psychology, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, USA.
Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health, Nutrition Research Institute, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kannapolis, NC, USA.
Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.
Department of Pediatrics, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) reveals brain activation abnormalities during visuo-spatial attention and working memory among those with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in cross-sectional reports, but little is known about how activation changes over time during development within FASD or typically developing children. We studied 30 controls and 31 individuals with FASD over 2 years (7-14 years at first participation) with a total of 122 scans, as part of the Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Despite comparable performance, there were significant group differences in visuo-spatial activation over time bilaterally in frontal, parietal, and temporal regions. Controls showed an increase in signal intensity in these multiple regions whereas FASD participants showed a decrease in brain activation. Effects were also found in 2 small independent samples from the USA, corroborating the findings from the larger group. Results suggest that the long-lasting effect of prenatal alcohol may impact the maturation of visuo-spatial attention and differentiate those with FASD from controls. Based on this first longitudinal fMRI study in FASD children, our novel findings suggest a possible neural mechanism for attention deficits common among individuals with FASD.


development; fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; working memory

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