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Alcohol. 2017 Nov;64:11-21. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2017.05.002. Epub 2017 Aug 12.

Altered functional connectivity during spatial working memory in children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure.

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University of California San Diego, Department of Psychiatry, La Jolla, CA, USA. Electronic address:
Center for Behavioral Teratology, Department of Psychology, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, USA.
University of California San Diego, Department of Psychiatry, La Jolla, CA, USA.


Individuals prenatally exposed to alcohol often have impaired spatial working memory (SWM). This study examines functional connections of frontal and parietal regions that support SWM in children with and without prenatal alcohol exposure. Children ages 10 to 16 with histories of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure (AE group; n = 18) and controls (CON group; n = 19) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing a SWM task. Whole brain task-related functional connectivity of bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and posterior parietal cortex (PPC) seed regions were estimated for each participant using a psychophysiological interaction approach. Children in the AE group were less accurate than children in the CON group when performing the SWM task (p = 0.008). Positive coupling between bilateral DLPFC seeds and regions within the fronto-parietal network was observed in the CON group, whereas the AE group showed negative connectivity. In contrast to the CON group, the AE group showed positive connectivity between PPC seeds and frontal lobe regions. Across seeds, decreased negative coupling with regions outside the fronto-parietal network (e.g., left middle occipital gyrus) were observed in the AE group relative to the CON group. Functional data clusters were considered significant at p < 0.05. Overall findings suggest that localized alterations in neural activity, aberrant fronto-parietal network synchrony, and poor coordination of neural responses with regions outside of this network may help explain SWM deficits in individuals with a history of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure.


Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD); Fronto-parietal network; Functional connectivity; Spatial working memory; fMRI

[Available on 2018-11-01]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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