Alcohol exposure can harm the development of white matter
According to findings from a recent study, prenatal alcohol exposure can harm the development of white matter. The damaging of white matter could help to explain visual processing deficits and executive dysfunction. According to Susanna L. Fryer, M.S. of the University of California San Diego, “Optimal white matter integrity is thought to support efficient cognition… So the finding that prenatal alcohol exposure is associated with altered white-matter integrity may help explain aspects of the cognitive and behavioral problems that individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders commonly face.” This study confirms findings from previous studies that indicate white matter is a target of alcohol teratogenesis. The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that discusses the study more:
The researchers used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to assess the microstructure of white matter in the brains of 27 patients ages eight to 18. DTI like other MRI techniques can depict biological tissues at the microstructural level, providing an improved view of subtle damage in the brain.
Of all the patients, 15 had heavy prenatal alcohol exposure, and 12 didn’t.
DTI images revealed that both groups had similar total brain size, but those with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders showed evidence of altered nerve fiber integrity at a microstructural level, the researchers said.
Within the fetal alcohol spectrum group, white matter microstructure didn’t differ whether patients had been diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, one of the most serious spectrum disorders.
“In other words, similar brain alterations and behavioral problems can occur because of prenatal alcohol exposure, with or without the facial features and physical growth insufficiency required to diagnose fetal alcohol syndrome,” Fryer said.