A 2011 consensus statement issued by the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders recommended rigorous scientific investigation aimed at refining our understanding of cognitive and behavioral profiles of alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND). Therefore, the broad, long-term goal of this research is to develop and validate clinically practical procedures to identify children with ARND. The main objective of the current project is to evaluate the sensitivity of functional (MEG/EEG) and structural (MRI/DTI) neuroimaging methods and cognitive-behavioral tests in differentiating children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD;both FAS and ARND) from children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and typically developing controls (TDC). The central hypothesis is that the speed of information processing at a neuronal level differentiates children with FASD from other clinical groups with similar behavioral profiles. Preliminary data are in keeping with this processing speed hypothesis. MEG and EEG will be simultaneously recorded while participants, 8 to 12 years of age, perform two tasks: visual prosaccades and the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART). MRI and diffusion tensor imaging will also be performed. The rationale tor concurrent MEG and EEG is that MEG can inform the interpretation of EEG data. Furthermore, the high temporal resolution (milliseconds) of MEG/EEG allows one to directly assess speed of information processing. A behavioral test battery comprised of measures shown to be sensitive to the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure will also be administered. Using this methodology, three specific aims will be pursued: 1. Determine the functional (MEG/EEG) and structural (MRI/DTI) underpinnings of visual prosaccades and its relation to cognitive-behavioral measures in children with FASD, ADHD, and TDC. 2. Identify the functional and structural networks of the SART and their association with cognitive-behavioral measures in children with FASD, ADHD, and TDC. 3. Identify a set of clinically useful (EEG and cognitive-behavioral) measures that optimally differentiate between groups. This theory-driven approach is innovative by identifying 'neuro-cognitive markers'of prenatal alcohol exposure. It further proposes a novel approach to concurrently record MEG/EEG during two tasks that can be used across a broad age range and different cultures. It is expected that the proposed research will lead to a unique set of neurocognitive markers that can be used clinically to identify children with FASD, particularly those with ARND. Use of EEG and neuro-cognitive indices is clinically significant because these procedures are widely available.

Public Health Relevance

Identification of children affected by prenatal alcohol exposure remains a major health care challenge. The goal of this research is to evaluate the sensitivity of a novel combination of neuroimaging methods and psychological tests in the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
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University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center
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