Quantitative Assessment of Cerebral Connectivity Deficiency and Cognitive Impairment in Children with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure
It is common knowledge that alcohol consumption during pregnancy would cause cognitive impairment in children. However, recent works suggested that the risk of alcohol use during pregnancy may have been exaggerated. It is critical to determine whether and up to which amount the consumption of alcohol will affect the cognitive development of children.
The study evaluates time-varying functional connectivity using magnetoencephalogram data from somatosensory evoked response experiments for 19 teenage subjects with prenatal alcohol exposure and 21 healthy control teenage subjects using a new time-varying connectivity approach, combining renormalised partial directed coherence with state space modeling.
Children exposed to alcohol prenatally are at risk of developing a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) characterized by cerebral connectivity deficiency and impaired cognitive abilities.
Through a comparison study of teenage subjects exposed to alcohol prenatally with healthy control subjects, the study established that the inter-hemispheric connectivity is deficient for the former, which may lead to disruption in the cortical inter-hemispheric connectivity and deficits in higher order cognitive functions as measured by an IQ test, for example. The study provides quantitative evidence that the disruption is correlated with cognitive deficits.
Conclusion and Recommendations
These findings could lead to a novel, highly sensitive biomarker for FASD and support a recommendation of no safe amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.