Normative Magnetic Resonance Imaging Data Increase the Sensitivity to Brain Volume Abnormalities in the Classification of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

J Pediatr. 2024 Mar:266:113868. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2023.113868. Epub 2023 Dec 6.


Objective: To evaluate the use of a large magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) normative dataset to quantify structural brain anomalies that may improve diagnostic sensitivity for atypical brain volume in youth with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

Study design: Participants included 48 children with prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) and 43 controls, ages 8-17 years, from the longitudinal Collaborative Initiative on FASD s. Recently published lifespan brain charts were used to quantify participants' (per)centile for brain volumes (cortical and subcortical gray matter and cortical white matter), providing an index of (dis)similarity to typically developing individuals of the same age and sex.

Results: Participants with PAE demonstrated lower mean centile scores compared with controls. Participants with PAE and scores ≤ 10th centile on at least 1 brain volume metric demonstrated significantly lower performance on measures of intellectual function and aspects of executive functioning compared with participants with PAE and "typical" volumes (>10th centile). Brain volume centiles explained a greater amount of variance in IQ and improved sensitivity to brain volume anomalies in FASD compared with the most commonly used diagnostic criterion of occipitofrontal circumference (OFC) ≤ 10th.

Conclusion: Age- and sex-adjusted brain volumes based on a large normative dataset may be useful predictors of functional outcomes and may identify a greater number of individuals with FASD than the currently used criterion of OFC.

Keywords: FASD; classification; diagnosis; sensitivity; structural MRI.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Diseases*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*