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Author Notes:

Correspondence: Xiangchuan Chen, Biomedical Imaging Technology Center, Emory University, 531 Asbury Circle, Suite 305, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA. Phone: (404) 712-2699, Fax: (404) 712-2707, Email: xiangchuan.chen@emory.edu; or Claire D. Coles, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University, 1256 Briarcliff Road, Room-323 West, Atlanta, GA 30306, USA. Phone: (404) 712-9800, Fax: (404) 712-9809, Email: ccoles@emory.edu

Acknowledgments: We want to thank the families and young adults who have participated in this research.

Finally, we wish to acknowledge the significant contribution of Sharron Paige to this research effort.


Research Funding:

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health [R01 AA014373] and was supported in part by the Biomedical Imaging Technology Center of Emory University.


  • prenatal alcohol exposure
  • structural MRI
  • brain segmentation
  • volume

Understanding Specific Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Brain Structure in Young Adults


Journal Title:

Human Brain Mapping


Volume 33, Number 7


, Pages 1663-1676

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) is associated with various adverse effects on human brain and behavior. Recently, neuroimaging studies have begun to identify PAE effects on specific brain structures. Investigation of such specific PAE effects is important for understanding the teratogenic mechanism of PAE on human brain, which is critical for differentiating PAE from other disorders. In this structural MRI study with young adults, PAE effects on the volumes of automatically segmented cortical and sub-cortical regions of interest (ROIs) were evaluated both through a group difference approach and a parametric approach. In the group difference approach (comparing among two PAE and a control groups), a disproportionate PAE effect was found in several occipital and temporal regions. This result is inconsistent with previous studies with child samples. Moreover, a gender difference in PAE effect was shown in some cortical ROIs. These findings suggest that sampling and gender may be important factors for interpreting specific PAE effects on human brain. With the parametric approach, it was demonstrated that the higher the PAE level, the smaller the entire brain, the lower the IQ. Several cortical and sub-cortical ROIs also exhibited a negative correlation between the PAE level and ROI volume. Furthermore, our data showed that the PAE effect on the brain could not be interpreted by the PAE effect on general physical growth until the young adult age. This study provides valuable insight into specific effects of PAE on human brain, and suggests important implications for future studies in this field.

Copyright information:

© 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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