Mapping white matter integrity and neurobehavioral correlates in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
Brain structural abnormalities and neurocognitive dysfunction have been observed in individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Little is known about how white matter integrity is related to these functional and morphological deficits. We used a combination of diffusion tensor and T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate white matter integrity in individuals with FASDs and related these findings to neurocognitive deficits. Seventeen children and adolescents with FASDs were compared with 19 typically developing age- and gender-matched controls. Lower fractional anisotropy (FA) was observed in individuals with FASDs relative to controls in the right lateral temporal lobe and bilaterally in the lateral aspects of the splenium of the corpus callosum. White matter density was also lower in some, but not all regions in which FA was lower. FA abnormalities were confirmed to be in areas of white matter in post hoc region of interest analyses, further supporting that less myelin or disorganized fiber tracts are associated with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure. Significant correlations between performance on a test of visuomotor integration and FA in bilateral splenium, but not temporal regions were observed within the FASD group. Correlations between the visuomotor task and FA within the splenium were not significant within the control group, and were not significant for measures of reading ability. This suggests that this region of white matter is particularly susceptible to damage from prenatal alcohol exposure and that disruption of splenial fibers in this group is associated with poorer visuomotor integration.