Erik de Water, Madeline N. Rockhold, Donovan J. Roediger, Alyssa M. Krueger, Bryon A. Mueller, Christopher J. Boys, Mariah J. Schumacher, Sarah N. Mattson, Kenneth L. Jones, Kelvin O. Lim, Jeffrey R. Wozniak, Social behaviors and gray matter volumes of brain areas supporting social cognition in children and adolescents with prenatal alcohol exposure, Brain Research, 2021,147388, ISSN 0006-8993, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brainres.2021.147388
Children and adolescents with prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) showed poor social functioning.
Children and adolescents with PAE had smaller gray matter volumes of the precuneus and lateral orbitofrontal cortex than controls.
Atypical gray matter volumes of brain areas involved in perspective-taking and emotion-regulation may contribute to the social deficits in children and adolescents with PAE.
The goal of this study was to examine: 1) differences in parent-reported prosocial and antisocial behaviors between children and adolescents with and without prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE); 2) differences in gray matter volumes of brain areas supporting social cognition between children and adolescents with and without PAE; 3) correlations between gray matter volumes of brain areas supporting social cognition and parent-reported prosocial and antisocial behaviors. Parents of children and adolescents ages 8-16 years completed measures on their prosocial and antisocial behaviors (i.e., Behavior Assessment Scale for Children, Vineland Adaptive Behaviors Scales, and Child Behavior Checklist) (n = 84; 41 with PAE, 43 without PAE). Seventy-nine participants (40 with PAE, 39 without PAE) also completed a structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan with quality data. Gray matter volumes of seven brain areas supporting social cognitive processes were computed using automated procedures (FreeSurfer 6.0): bilateral fusiform gyrus, superior temporal gyrus, medial orbitofrontal cortex, lateral orbitofrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, precuneus, and temporal pole.
Children and adolescents with PAE showed decreased prosocial behaviors and increased antisocial behaviors as well as smaller volumes of the precuneus and lateral orbitofrontal cortex, even when controlling for total intracranial volume. Social brain volumes were not significantly correlated with prosocial or antisocial behaviors.
These findings suggest that children and adolescents with PAE show worse social functioning and smaller volumes of brain areas supporting self-awareness, perspective-taking and emotion-regulation than their same-age peers without PAE.