Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Reductions in the brain's deep gray matter volumes help explain fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Date:
May 18, 2011
Source:
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research
Summary:
Individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders have numerous motor, behavioral, and cognitive difficulties. Deep gray matter, the brain's "relay" stations, may be key to understanding alcohol-related brain injuries. Recent findings show significant volume reductions in deep gray matter structures of those with FASD.

Individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) have numerous motor, behavioral, and cognitive difficulties. Investigation of deep gray matter structures, the brain's "relay" stations, may play a key role in understanding alcohol-related brain injuries. A recent analysis of differences in deep gray matter volumes of children and adolescents with FASD compared to children without FASD has found significant volume reductions throughout the deep gray matter structures of those with FASD.

Results will be published in the August 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

"Deep gray matter are the brain's relay stations that receive and send many inputs between cortical brain regions," explained Christian Beaulieu, professor in biomedical engineering in the faculty of medicine and dentistry at the University of Alberta and corresponding author for the study. "Efficient communication between brain regions is essential for proper cognitive function. The major structures we looked at -- the basal ganglia, hippocampus, thalamus and amygdala -- are well known to be involved in memory, cognition, motor function, and emotional networks."

"These structures integrate incoming sensory and motor information before it passes to the cortex," added Elizabeth R. Sowell, professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California and Children's Hospital Los Angeles. "They are critical for functions such as learning, memory, and emotion and are often disproportionally affected in various conditions. Although we already knew that some of these structures were affected by alcohol exposure, it was unclear what the extent of damage was or whether it was the same in children and teens."

"Several earlier studies showed major volume reductions with a focus on specific substructures in small groups of subjects," said Beaulieu. "Only two previous studies had looked at a decent number of subjects and measured a number of brain regions. We took advantage of advances in MRI image quality and more sophisticated quantitative image analyses to look at all six deep gray matter structures in a largish group of 28 FASD subjects. We also looked at volume differences over an age span of six to 17 years whereas other studies collapse all the ages and lose developmental profiles."

The researchers examined two groups matched on age (6 to 17 years) and gender with high resolution structural magnetic resonance imaging: 28 (16 males, 12 females) diagnosed with FASD, and 56 (32 males, 24 females) without FASD (2 controls per each FASD subject). Volumes of the hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, caudate, putamen, and globus pallidus were compared between the two groups, and any changes with age were tracked.

"The deep gray matter volume was reduced in all six structures examined in the children and adolescents with FASD," said Beaulieu, "and volume reductions were observed over a wide age range. Less volume could be readily thought of as having less horsepower under the hood. Smaller structures would have less capacity to facilitate communication between different brain regions."

"The differences were substantial at seven to 18 percent," added Sowell, "when compared to controls, suggesting that these structures are considerably affected by alcohol during fetal development. This may indicate an underlying basis for some of the behavior, learning, and memory problems observed in children and adolescents with FASD. Also, the authors showed that some abnormalities are consistent with age while others are more apparent in one age group, suggesting that some of these brain abnormalities change with age."

Beaulieu noted that these volume differences would not have been uncovered by visual inspection of the images, thus pointing out the need for quantitative measurements. "It is necessary to incorporate modern brain imaging and analysis to better identify the brain regions that are deleteriously affected in individuals affected by alcohol and other adverse events," he said. "Furthermore, there was not a straightforward relationship between individual brain volumes and specific cognitive problems, suggesting a more complex inter-play between affected brain regions."

Both Beaulieu and Sowell emphasized a fundamental "brain basis" for the behavior and learning difficulties commonly experienced by children and adolescents with FASD. "It is important for readers to realize that children with a diagnosis of an FASD -- and the associated cognitive, medical, and behavioral issues -- have a widespread injured brain which is clearly not their fault," said Beaulieu.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Alexa Nardelli, Catherine Lebel, Carmen Rasmussen, Gail Andrew, Christian Beaulieu. Extensive Deep Gray Matter Volume Reductions in Children and Adolescents with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2011.01476.x

Cite This Page:

Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. "Reductions in the brain's deep gray matter volumes help explain fetal alcohol spectrum disorders." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110516161340.htm>.
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. (2011, May 18). Reductions in the brain's deep gray matter volumes help explain fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110516161340.htm
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. "Reductions in the brain's deep gray matter volumes help explain fetal alcohol spectrum disorders." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110516161340.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) In a ruling attorneys for both sides agreed was a first of its kind, a Georgia appeals court said parents can be held liable for what kids put online. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

Buzz60 (Oct. 17, 2014) Feeling down? Reach for the refrigerator, not the medicine cabinet! TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) shares some of the best foods to boost your mood. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

Newsy (Oct. 15, 2014) Researchers claim they’ve diagnosed the first example of the disorder in a 31-year-old U.S. Navy serviceman. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins