Examining the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on corticothalamic connectivity: A multimodal neuroimaging study in children

Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2021 Dec;52:101019. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2021.101019. Epub 2021 Oct 8.


Children with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) experience a range of cognitive and behavioral effects. Prior studies have demonstrated white matter changes in children with FASD relative to typically developing controls (TDC) and these changes relate to behavior. Our prior MEG study (Candelaria-Cook et al. 2020) demonstrated reduced alpha oscillations during rest in FASD relative to TDC and alpha power is correlated with behavior. However, little is known about how brain structure influences brain function. We hypothesized that alpha power was related to corticothalamic connectivity. Children 8-13 years of age (TDC: N = 25, FASD: N = 24) underwent rest MEG with eyes open or closed and MRI to collect structural and diffusion tensor imaging data. MEG spectral analysis was performed for sensor and source data. We estimated mean fractional anisotropy in regions of interest (ROIs) that included the corticothalamic tracts. The FASD group had reduced mean FA in three of the corticothalamic ROIs. FA in these tracts was significantly correlated with alpha power at the sensor and source level. The results support the hypothesis that integrity of the corticothalamic tracts influences cortical alpha power. Further research is needed to understand how brain structure and function influence behavior.

Keywords: Alpha oscillations; Corticothalamic tracts; DTI; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; MEG; Prenatal alcohol exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anisotropy
  • Brain
  • Child
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects* / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter* / diagnostic imaging