, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 119-132
Date: 12 Apr 2011

Functional Neuroimaging in the Examination of Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure

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Abstract

Functional neuroimaging offers the opportunity to understand the effect of prenatal alcohol exposure on the activities of the brain as well as providing a window into the relationship between neural activation and the behavioral outcomes that have been described in affected individuals. Several different methodologies have been used to examine the neurophysiological signal changes associated with different brain functions in prenatally exposed individuals and those diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) or other fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). These include electroencephalography (EEG), positron emission tomography (PET), single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). These studies demonstrate that it is feasible to use these technologies with this clinical population and that the damage to the central nervous system associated with prenatal alcohol exposure has widespread functional implications; however, currently, the literature in these areas is limited and unsystematic. Functional MRI with this clinical population has just begun to explore the implications of prenatal alcohol exposure with the first paper published in 2005. Other methodologies are similarly limited in scope. Nonetheless, these functional neuroimaging studies suggest that prenatal alcohol exposure, or a diagnosis of FAS, may lead to restrictions in neural efficiency or a global decrement in processing resources.