Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: Recent Neuroimaging Findings

Curr Dev Disord Rep. 2014 Sep;1(3):161-172. doi: 10.1007/s40474-014-0020-8.


Since the identification of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome over 40 years ago, much has been learned about the detrimental effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on the developing brain. This review highlights recent neuroimaging studies, within the context of previous work. Structural magnetic resonance imaging has described morphological differences in the brain and their relationships to cognitive deficits and measures of facial dysmorphology. Diffusion tensor imaging has elaborated on the relationship between white matter microstructure and behavior. Atypical neuromaturation across childhood and adolescence has been observed in longitudinal neuroimaging studies. Functional imaging has revealed differences in neural activation patterns underlying sensory processing, cognition and behavioral deficits. A recent functional connectivity analysis demonstrates reductions in global network efficiency. Despite this progress much remains unknown about the impact of prenatal alcohol exposure on the brain, and continued research efforts are essential.