Examining the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on performance of the sustained attention to response task in children with an FASD

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Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE), the leading known cause of childhood developmental disability, has long-lasting effects extending throughout the lifespan. It is well documented that children prenatally exposed to alcohol have difficulties inhibiting behavior and sustaining attention. Thus, the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART), a Go/No-go paradigm, is especially well suited to assess the behavioral and neural functioning characteristics of children with PAE. In this study, we utilized neuropsychological assessment, parent/guardian questionnaires, and magnetoencephalography during SART random and fixed orders to assess characteristics of children 8-12 years old prenatally exposed to alcohol compared to typically developing children. Compared to neurotypical control children, children with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) diagnosis had significantly decreased performance on neuropsychological measures, had deficiencies in task-based performance, were rated as having increased Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) behaviors and as having lower cognitive functioning by their caretakers, and had decreased peak amplitudes in Broadmann's Area 44 (BA44) during SART. Further, MEG peak amplitude in BA44 was found to be significantly associated with neuropsychological test results, parent/guardian questionnaires, and task-based performance such that decreased amplitude was associated with poorer performance. In exploratory analyses, we also found significant correlations between total cortical volume and MEG peak amplitude indicating that the reduced amplitude is likely related in part to reduced overall brain volume often reported in children with PAE. These findings show that children 8-12 years old with an FASD diagnosis have decreased amplitudes in BA44 during SART random order, and that these deficits are associated with multiple behavioral measures.

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Human brain mapping





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