Hippocampal subfield abnormalities and memory functioning in children with fetal alcohol Spectrum disorders

Donovan J. Roediger, Alyssa M. Krueger, Erik de Water, Bryon A. Mueller, Christopher A. Boys, Timothy J. Hendrickson, Mariah J. Schumacher, Sarah N. Mattson, Kenneth L. Jones, Kelvin O. Lim, Jeffrey R. Wozniak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) affects early brain development and has been associated with hippocampal damage. Animal models of PAE have suggested that some subfields of the hippocampus may be more susceptible to damage than others. Recent advances in structural MRI processing now allow us to examine the morphology of hippocampal subfields in humans with PAE. Method: Structural MRI scans were collected from 40 children with PAE and 39 typically developing children (ages 8–16). The images were processed using the Human Connectome Project Minimal Preprocessing Pipeline (v4.0.1) and the Hippocampal Subfields package (v21) from FreeSurfer. Using a large dataset of typically developing children enrolled in the Human Connectome Project in Development (HCP-D) for normative standards, we computed age-specific volumetric z-scores for our two samples. Using these norm-adjusted hippocampal subfield volumes, comparisons were performed between children with PAE and typically developing children, controlling for total intracranial volume. Lastly, we investigated whether subfield volumes correlated with episodic memory (i.e., Picture Sequence Memory test of the NIH toolbox). Results: Five subfields had significantly smaller adjusted volumes in children with PAE than in typically developing controls: CA1, CA4, subiculum, presubiculum, and the hippocampal tail. Subfield volumes were not significantly correlated with episodic memory. Conclusions: The results suggest that several regions of the hippocampus may be particularly affected by PAE. The finding of smaller CA1 volumes parallels previous reports in rodent models. The novel findings of decreased volume in the subicular cortex, CA4 and the hippocampal tail suggest avenues for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106944
JournalNeurotoxicology and Teratology
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain
  • Hippocampus
  • MRI
  • Memory
  • Prenatal alcohol exposure


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