Neurodevelopment in Adolescents and Adults with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD): a Magnetic Resonance Region of Interest Analysis

Sarah M.Inkelis, Eileen M.Moore, AmandaBischoff-Grethe, Edward P.Riley


Corpus callosum, caudate, and cerebellar volumes smaller with increased age in FASD.

Corpus callosum and caudate volumes had quadratic relationship with age in FASD.

Cerebellar volume was smaller in older FASD but larger in older controls.

Volumetric findings persisted in FASD even after intracranial volume adjustment.

Sexual dimorphism of pallidum and cerebellum volume was attenuated in FASD.


The neurodevelopmental trajectory in individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) has not been well characterized. We examined age-related differences in the volume of the corpus callosum, basal ganglia, and cerebellum across adolescence and young adulthood, due to the sensitivity of these regions to prenatal alcohol exposure.

T1-weighted anatomical magnetic resonance images (MRI) were acquired from a cross-sectional sample of subjects 13-30 years old who had received an alcohol-related diagnosis (FASD, n=107) and typically developing controls (CON, n=56). FreeSurfer v5.3 was used to obtain volumetric data for the corpus callosum, caudate, putamen, pallidum, and cerebellum. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to examine the effects of group (FASD, CON), sex, and age on region volume. Data were analyzed with and without correction for intracranial volume (ICV).

All subregions were significantly smaller in the FASD group compared to controls, and these findings persisted even after ICV correction. Furthermore, the FASD and control groups differed in their relationship between age and total volume of the corpus callosum, caudate, and cerebellum. Specifically, older FASD individuals had smaller total volume in these regions; this relationship was not seen in the control group. Control males demonstrated larger volumes than control females in all regions prior to ICV correction; however, sex differences were attenuated in the FASD group in both the pallidum and cerebellum. Sex differences remained after ICV correction in the pallidum and cerebellum. These cross-sectional findings suggest that at least some brain regions may become smaller at an earlier than expected age in individuals with FASD, and that sex is an important factor to consider when examining neural structures in FASD. Further evaluation is necessary using longitudinal methods and including older ages.


ARND- alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder
CON- control
FAE- fetal alcohol effects
FASD- fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
FAS- fetal alcohol syndrome
pFAS- partial fetal alcohol syndrome
ICV- intracranial volume
ND-PAE- neurobehavioral disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure
MRI- magnetic resonance imaging
ROI- region of interest

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