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Author Notes:

Sarah N. Mattson, Ph.D., 6330 Alvarado Court, Suite 100, San Diego CA, 92120. sarah.mattson@sdsu.edu. Phone: 619-594-7228. Fax: 619-594-1895.

The authors thank the families that participate in our research studies and acknowledge the support of the Center for Behavioral Teratology.

The authors have no financial relationships relevant to this article to disclose.

The authors have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.


Research Funding:

All or part of this work was done in conjunction with the Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (CIFASD), which is funded by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA).

This work was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [grant numbers U01 AA014834 and U01 AA017122].

Additional support provided by U01 AA014815, and U01 AA014811 and K99/R00 AA022661.


  • Science & Technology
  • Life Sciences & Biomedicine
  • Neuroimaging
  • Neurosciences & Neurology
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)
  • Prenatal alcohol exposure
  • Memory
  • Neurobehavioral profile
  • Brain

Neural correlates of verbal memory in youth with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure

Journal Title:

Brain Imaging and Behavior


Volume 12, Number 3


, Pages 806-822

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


Prenatal alcohol exposure can impact both brain development and neurobehavioral function, including verbal learning and recall, although the relation between verbal recall and brain structure in this population has not been examined fully. We aimed to determine the structural neural correlates of verbal learning and recall in youth with histories of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure using a region of interest (ROI) approach. As part of an ongoing multisite project, subjects (age 10–16 years) with prenatal alcohol exposure (AE, n = 81) and controls (CON, n = 81) were tested using the CVLT-C and measures of cortical volume, surface area, and thickness as well as hippocampal volume were derived from MRI. Group differences in brain and memory indices were tested with ANOVA. Multiple regression analyses tested whether brain ROIs significantly predicted memory performance. The AE group had lower scores than the CON group on all CVLT-C variables (ps ≤ .001) and volume and surface area (ps < .025), although results varied by ROI. No group differences in cortical thickness were found. The relations between cortical structure and memory performance differed between group among some ROIs, particularly those in the frontal cortex, generally with smaller surface area and/or thinner cortex predicting better performance in CON but worse performance in AE. Cortical surface area appears to be the most sensitive index to the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure, while cortical thickness appears to be the least sensitive. These findings also indicate that the neural correlates of verbal memory are altered in youth with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure compared to controls.

Copyright information:

© 2017, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.

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