Cortical gyrification is abnormal in children with prenatal alcohol exposure

Timothy J. Hendrickson, Bryon A. Mueller, Elizabeth R. Sowell, Sarah N. Mattson, Claire D. Coles, Julie A. Kable, Kenneth L. Jones, Christopher J. Boys, Kelvin O. Lim, Edward P. Riley, Jeffrey R. Wozniak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Objectives Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) adversely affects early brain development. Previous studies have shown a wide range of structural and functional abnormalities in children and adolescents with PAE. The current study adds to the existing literature specifically on cortical development by examining cortical gyrification in a large sample of children with PAE compared to controls. Relationships between cortical development and intellectual functioning are also examined. Experimental design Included were 92 children with PAE and 83 controls ages 9–16 from four sites in the Collaborative Initiative on FASD (CIFASD). All PAE participants had documented heavy PAE. All underwent a formal evaluation of physical anomalies and dysmorphic facial features. MRI data were collected using modified matched protocols on three platforms (Siemens, GE, and Philips). Cortical gyrification was examined using a semi-automated procedure. Principal observations Whole brain group comparisons using Monte Carlo z-simulation for multiple comparisons showed significantly lower cortical gyrification across a large proportion of the cerebral cortex amongst PAE compared to controls. Whole brain comparisons and ROI based analyses showed strong positive correlations between cortical gyrification and IQ (i.e. less developed cortex was associated with lower IQ). Conclusions Abnormalities in cortical development were seen across the brain in children with PAE compared to controls. Cortical gyrification and IQ were strongly correlated, suggesting that examining mechanisms by which alcohol disrupts cortical formation may yield clinically relevant insights and potential directions for early intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-400
Number of pages10
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The following support was utilized in this work: NIAAA U01AA017122 (PI: ERS); NIAAA U01AA014834 (PI: SNM); U24AA014811 (PI: EPR); U24AA014815 (PI: KLJ); U24AA014818 (PI: Barnett); support from the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute.


  • Brain
  • Cortex
  • Fetal alcohol (FAS, FASD)
  • MRI
  • Neuropsychology


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