Background: Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) is associated with a variety of structural abnormalities in the brain, including several within the para-limbic system. Children with PAE have higher rates of internalizing disorders, including depression and anxiety, which may be related to underlying limbic system anomalies. Methods: Children aged 8 to 16 with PAE (n = 41) or without PAE (n = 36) underwent an magnetic resonance imaging of the brain and parents completed behavioral questionnaires about their children. Semi-automated procedures (FreeSurfer) were used to derive para-limbic volumes from T1-weighted anatomical images. Results: There were significant group differences (PAE vs. nonexposed controls) in the caudate, hippocampus, and the putamen; children with PAE had smaller volumes in these regions even after controlling for total intracranial volume. A trend-level association was seen between caudate volume and internalizing symptoms in children with PAE; smaller caudate volumes (presumably reflecting less optimal neurodevelopment) were associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression symptoms in these children. Conclusions: Caudate structure may be disproportionately affected by PAE and may be associated with the later development of internalizing symptoms in those affected by PAE.
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder