Neurodevelopmental Trajectories Following Prenatal Alcohol Exposure

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 15 (2022)
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Abstract

Prenatal alcohol exposure interferes with neurodevelopment. The brain is particularly susceptible to the adverse consequences of prenatal alcohol exposure, and numerous studies have documented changes to brain anatomy and function, as well as consequences for cognition, behavior, and mental health. Studies in typically developing individuals have shown that the brain undergoes dynamic developmental processes over an individual’s lifespan. Furthermore, magnetic resonance imaging studies in other neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders have shown that their developmental trajectories differ from the typical pattern. Therefore, to understand long-term clinical outcomes of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, it is necessary to investigate changes in neurodevelopmental trajectories in this population. Here we review studies that have used MRI to evaluate changes in brain structure and function over time via cross-sectional or longitudinal methods in individuals with PAE. Research demonstrates that individuals with PAE have atypical cortical and white matter microstructural developmental trajectories through childhood and adolescence. More research is needed to understand how factors such as sex and postnatal experiences may further mediate these trajectories. Furthermore, nothing is known about the trajectories beyond young adulthood.

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