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

Gautam P, Nuñez SC, Narr KL, Mattson SN, May PA, Adnams CM, Riley EP, Jones KL, Kan EC, Sowell ER. (2014) Cerebral Cortex doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhu162 [Epub ahead of print]  

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Abstract:

Background
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.

Methodology
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.

Results
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.

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