Characterization of white matter microstructure in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Susanna L. Fryer, Brian C. Schweinsburg, Olivia A. Bjorkquist, Lawrence R. Frank, Sarah N. Mattson, Andrea D. Spadoni, Edward P. Riley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Background: Exposure to alcohol during gestation is associated with CNS alterations, cognitive deficits, and behavior problems. This study investigated microstructural aspects of putative white matter abnormalities following prenatal alcohol exposure. Methods: Diffusion tensor imaging was used to assess white matter microstructure in 27 youth (age range: 8 to 18 years) with (n = 15) and without (n = 12) histories of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure. Voxelwise analyses, corrected for multiple comparisons, compared fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) between groups, throughout the cerebrum. Results: Prenatal alcohol exposure was associated with low FA in multiple cerebral areas, including the body of the corpus callosum and white matter innervating bilateral medial frontal and occipital lobes. Fewer between-group differences in MD were observed. Conclusions: These data provide an account of cerebral white matter microstructural integrity in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and support extant literature showing that white matter is a target of alcohol teratogenesis. The white matter anomalies characterized in this study may relate to the neurobehavioral sequelae associated with gestational alcohol exposure, especially in areas of executive dysfunction and visual processing deficits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)514-521
Number of pages8
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Alcohol
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • Frontal Lobe
  • Prenatal Alcohol Exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology


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