Dependent on maternal (e.g. genetic, age) and exposure (frequency, quantity, and timing) variables, the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on the developing fetus are known to vary widely, producing a broad range of morphological anomalies and neurocognitive deficits in offspring, referred to as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Maternal drinking during pregnancy remains a leading risk factor for the development of intellectual disabilities in the US. While few functional findings exist today that shed light on the mechanisms responsible for the observed impairments in individuals with FASD, animal models consistently report deleterious effects of early alcohol exposure on GABA-ergic inhibitory pathways. The post-motor beta rebound (PMBR), a transient increase of 15-30 Hz beta power in the motor cortex that follows the termination of movement, has been implicated as a neural signature of GABA-ergic inhibitory activity. Further, PMBR has been shown to be a reliable predictor of age in adolescents. The present study sought to investigate any differences in the development of PMBR between FASD and control groups. Beta event-related de-synchronization (ERD) and movement-related gamma synchronization (MRGS), although not clearly linked to brain maturation, were also examined. Twenty-two participants with FASD and 22 age and sex-matched controls (12-22 years old) underwent magnetoencephalography scans while performing an auditory oddball task, which required a button press in response to select target stimuli. The data surrounding the button presses were localized to the participants' motor cortices, and the time courses from the locations of the maximally evoked PMBR were subjected to wavelet analyses. The subsequent analysis of PMBR, ERD, and MRGS revealed a significant interaction between group and age in their effects on PMBR. While age had a significant effect on PMBR in the controls, no simple effects of age were detected in the FASD group. The FASD group additionally displayed decreased overall ERD levels. No group or age effects on MRGS were detected. The described findings provide further evidence for broad impairments in inhibitory processes in adolescents with FASD, possibly related to aberrant development of GABA-ergic pathways.
Keywords: Adolescents; FASD; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Magnetoencephalography; PMBR; Post-movement beta rebound.