School-aged children diagnosed with an FASD exhibit visuo-cortical network disturbance: A magnetoencephalography (MEG) study

Zinia Pervin, John Pinner, Lucinda Flynn, Cassandra M. Cerros, Mareth E. Williams, Dina E. Hill, Julia M. Stephen, School-aged children diagnosed with an FASD exhibit visuo-cortical network disturbance: A magnetoencephalography (MEG) study, Alcohol, 2021,
ISSN 0741-8329,


Children with prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) often suffer from cognitive and neurobehavioral dysfunction throughout their life, which may rise to a level of concern such that children receive a diagnosis under the fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) umbrella. Magnetoencephalography (MEG) contributes direct insight into neural processing and functional connectivity measures with temporal precision to understand cortical processing disorders that manifests during development. The impairment of perception may become more consequential among school-aged children with an FASD in the progress of intellectual functioning and behavioral maturation.

Fifty participants with the age range of 8-13 years gave informed consent and participate in our study. For each participant, visual responses were recorded using magnetoencephalography (MEG) while performing a prosaccade task with central stimuli (fovea centralis) and peripheral stimuli (left and right of central) presented on a screen, requiring participants to shift their gaze to the stimuli. After source analysis using minimum norm estimation (MNE), we investigated visual responses from each participant by measuring the latency and amplitude of visual evoked fields.

Delayed peak latency of the visual response was identified in the primary visual area (calcarine fissure) and visual association areas (v2, v3) in young children with an FASD for both stimulus types (central and peripheral). But the difference in visual response latency was only statistically significant (p ≤ 0.01) to the peripheral (right) stimulus. We also observed reduced amplitude (p ≤ 0.006) of visual evoked response in children with an FASD for the central stimulus type in both primary and visual association areas.

So, multiple visual areas show impairment in children with an FASD while visual delay and conduction disturbance is more prominent in response to peripheral stimuli. Children with an FASD also exhibit significantly reduced amplitude of neural activation to central stimuli. These sensory deficits may lead to slow cognitive processing speed through continued intra-cortical network disturbance in children with an FASD.

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