Multivariate models of brain volume for identification of children and adolescents with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder


Abstract Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) have shown reductions of brain volume associated with prenatal exposure to alcohol. Previous studies consider regional brain volumes independently but ignore potential relationships across numerous structures.

This study aims to (a) identify a multivariate model based on regional brain volume that discriminates children/adolescents with FASD versus healthy controls, and (b) determine if FASD classification performance can be increased by building classification models separately for each sex.

Three dimensional T1-weighted MRI from two independent childhood/adolescent datasets were used for training (79 FASD, aged 5.7–18.9 years, 35 males; 81 controls, aged 5.8–18.5 years, 32 males) and testing (67 FASD, aged 6.0–19.6 years, 38 males; 74 controls, aged 5.2–19.5 years, 42 males) a classification model. Using FreeSurfer, 87 regional brain volumes were extracted for each subject and were used as input into a support vector machine generating a classification model from the training data.

The model performed moderately well on the test data with accuracy 77%, sensitivity 64%, and specificity 88%. Regions that contributed heavily to prediction in this model included temporal lobe and subcortical gray matter. Further investigation of two separate models for males and females showed slightly decreased accuracy compared to the model including all subjects (male accuracy 70%; female accuracy 67%), but had different regional contributions suggesting sex differences.

This work demonstrates the potential of multivariate analysis of brain volumes for discriminating children/adolescents with FASD and provides indication of the most affected regions.

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