In the first study of its kind researchers from the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles found that children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) showed weaker brain activation during specific cognitive tasks than their unaffected counterparts. These novel findings suggest a possible neural mechanism for the persistent attention problems seen in individuals with FASD. The results of this study will be published in Cerebral Cortex.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has been used to observe brain activity during mental tasks in children with FASD, however, the team are the first to utilize these techniques to look at brain activation over time. The researchers wanted to see if the differences in brain activation between children with FASD and their healthy peers were static, or if they changed as children got older.
FASD encompasses the broad spectrum of symptoms that are linked to in utero alcohol exposure, including cognitive impairment, deficits in intelligence and attention and central nervous system abnormalities. These symptoms can lead to attention problems and higher societal and economic burdens common in individuals with FASD.
During the period of childhood and adolescence, brain function, working memory and attention performance all rapidly improve, suggesting that this is a crucial time for developing brain networks. To study how prenatal alcohol exposure may alter this development, researchers observed a group of unaffected children and a group of children with FASD over two years. They used fMRI to observe brain activation through mental tasks such as visuo-spatial attention, how humans visually perceive the spatial relationships among objects in their environment, and working memory.
The group found that there were significant differences in development brain activation over time between the two groups, even though they did not differ in task performance. While the healthy control group showed an increase in signal intensity over time, the children with FASD showed a decrease in brain activation during visuo-spatial attention, especially in the frontal, temporal and parietal brain regions.
These results demonstrate that prenatal alcohol exposure can change how brain signaling develops during childhood and adolescence, long after the damaging effects of alcohol exposure in utero. The atypical development of brain activation observed in children with FASD could explain the persistent problems in cognitive and behavioral function seen in this population as they mature.
Source: Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Michelle Petersen is the founder of Healthinnovations, having worked in the health and science industry for over 21 years, which includes tenure within the NHS and Oxford University. Healthinnovations is a publication that has reported on, influenced, and researched current and future innovations in health for the past decade.
Michelle has been picked up as an expert writer for Informa publisher’s Clinical Trials community, as well as being listed as a blog source by the world’s leading medical journals, including the acclaimed Nature-Springer journal series.
Healthinnovations is currently indexed by the trusted Altmetric and PlumX metrics systems, respectively, as a blog source for published research globally. Healthinnovations is also featured in the world-renowned BioPortfolio, BioPortfolio.com, the life science, pharmaceutical and healthcare portal.
Most recently the Texas A&M University covered The Top 10 Healthinnovations series on their site with distinguished Professor Stephen Maren calling the inclusion of himself and his team on the list a reflection of “the hard work and dedication of my students and trainees”.
Michelle Petersen’s copy was used in the highly successful marketing campaign for the mega-hit film ‘Jumanji: The Next Level, starring Jack Black, Karen Gilian, Kevin Hart and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Michelle Petersen’s copywriting was part of the film’s coverage by the Republic TV network. Republic TV is the most-watched English language TV channel in India since its inception in 2017.
An avid campaigner in the fight against child sex abuse and trafficking, Michelle is a passionate humanist striving for a better quality of life for all humans by helping to provide traction for new technologies and techniques within healthcare.