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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1996 Feb;20(1):31-4.

Abnormal development of the cerebellar vermis in children prenatally exposed to alcohol: size reduction in lobules I-V.

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1
San Diego State University/University of California-San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, USA.

Abstract

Abnormalities of the cerebellar vermis have been well documented in animal models of fetal alcohol syndrome. At this point, it is not known if the same brain region is affected in humans prenatally exposed to alcohol. In this study, the area of the cerebellar vermis was measured from brain magnetic resonance images of 9 children and young adults with prenatal alcohol exposure and 24 control subjects in the same age range. Six of the exposed children met standard criteria for fetal alcohol syndrome. The remaining three subjects had significant histories of prenatal exposure to alcohol, but did not have enough of the classic facial features for the diagnosis. For each subject with a suitable midsagittal section, three vermal areas were circumscribed: anterior vermis (vermal lobules I-V), posterior vermis (vermal lobules VI and VII), and the remaining vermal area (including lobules VIII-X). Statistical analyses revealed that the anterior region of the vermis was significantly smaller in subjects with prenatal alcohol exposure, whereas the posterior region and the remaining vermal area did not differ between groups. Previous findings from an animal model of neonatal alcohol exposure have documented Purkinje cell loss in vermal lobules I-V and IX-X, with notable sparing in lobules VI-VII. Thus, the results of both studies indicate similar patterns of abnormal brain development in the anterior vermal region, with apparent sparing in the posterior vermal region. Our findings, for the first time, suggest that regionally specific Purkinje cell death may also occur in humans prenatally exposed to alcohol.

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