Over the past 5 years, Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) has begun to provide new evidence about the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on white matter development. DTI, which examines microstructural tissue integrity, is sensitive to more subtle white matter abnormalities than traditional volumetric MRI methods. Thus far, the available DTI data suggest that white matter microstructural abnormalities fall on a continuum of severity in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Abnormalities are prominent in the corpus callosum, but also evident in major anterior-posterior fiber bundles, corticospinal tracts, and cerebellum. These subtle abnormalities are correlated with neurocognitive deficits, especially in processing speed, non-verbal ability, and executive functioning. Future studies using larger samples, increasingly sophisticated DTI methods, and additional functional MRI connectivity measures will better characterize the full range of abnormalities in FASD. Ultimately, these measures may serve as indices of change in future longitudinal studies and in studies of interventions for FASD.
- Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI)
- Fetal alcohol (FAS, FASD)