Corpus callosum shape and neuropsychological deficits in adult males with heavy fetal alcohol exposure

Neuroimage. 2002 Jan;15(1):233-51. doi: 10.1006/nimg.2001.0977.


Persons with brain damage consequent to prenatal alcohol exposure have typically been diagnosed with either fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) or fetal alcohol effects (FAE), depending on facial features. There is great variability of behavioral deficits within these groups. We sought to combine neuroanatomical measures with neurocognitive and neuromotor measures in criteria of greater sensitivity over the variety of consequences of alcohol exposure. To this end, midline curves of the corpus callosum were carefully digitized in three dimensions from T1-weighted MR scans of 15 adult males diagnosed with FAS, 15 with FAE, and 15 who were unexposed and clinically normal. From 5 h of neuropsychological testing we extracted 260 scores and ratings pertaining to attention, memory, executive function, fine and gross motor performance, and intelligence. Callosal midline shape was analyzed by new morphometric methods, and the relation of shape to behavior by partial least squares. The FAS and FAE subgroups have strikingly more variability of callosal shape than our normal subjects. With the excess shape variation are associated two different profiles of behavioral deficit unrelated to full-scale IQ or to the FAS/FAE distinction within the exposed subgroup. A relatively thick callosum is associated with a pattern of deficit in executive function; one that is relatively thin, with a deficit in motor function. The two combine in a very promising bipolar discrimination of the exposed from the unexposed in this sample. Thus there is considerable information in callosal form for prognosis of neuropsychological deficits in this frequently encountered birth defect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Corpus Callosum / pathology*
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Intelligence / physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Pregnancy