The impact of prenatal alcohol exposure on gray matter volume and cortical surface area of 2 to 3-year-old children in a South African birth cohort

Sivenesi Subramoney, Shantanu H. Joshi, Catherine J. Wedderburn, David Lee, Annerine Roos, Roger P. Woods, Heather J. Zar, Katherine L Narr, Dan J. Stein, Kirsten A. Donald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: There is a growing literature that demonstrates the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) on brain development in school-aged children. Less is known, however, on how PAE impacts the brain early in life. We investigated the effects of PAE and child sex on subcortical gray matter volume, cortical surface area (CSA), cortical volume (CV), and cortical thickness (CT) in children aged 2 to 3 years. Methods: The sample was recruited as a nested cross-sectional substudy of the Drakenstein Child Health Study. Images from T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging were acquired on 47 alcohol-exposed and 124 control children (i.e., with no or minimal alcohol exposure), aged 2 to 3 years, some of whom were scanned as neonates. Brain images were processed through automated processing pipelines using FreeSurfer version 6.0. Subcortical and a priori selected cortical regions of interest were compared. Results: Subcortical volume analyses revealed a PAE by child sex interaction for bilateral putamen volumes (Left: p = 0.02; Right: p = 0.01). There was no PAE by child sex interaction effect on CSA, CV, and CT. Analyses revealed an impact of PAE on CSA (p = 0.04) and CV (p = 0.04), but not CT in this age group. Of note, the inferior parietal gyrus CSA was significantly smaller in children with PAE compared to control children. Conclusions: Findings from this subgroup scanned at age 2 to 3 years build on previously described subcortical volume differences in neonates from this cohort. Findings suggest that PAE persistently affects gray matter development through the critical early years of life. The detectable influence of PAE on brain structure at this early age further highlights the importance of brain imaging studies on the impact of PAE on the young developing brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1233-1247
Number of pages15
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Volume46
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • brain development
  • fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
  • neuroimaging
  • prenatal alcohol exposure
  • structural MRI

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