Associations between Frontoparietal and Temporal White Matter, Neurocognitive Abilities and Age in Children and Youth with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure

  • Author / Creator
    Castro Gomez, Maria Jose
  • Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) has been linked to neurological, behavioural, cognitive, and emotional problems. The neurocognitive impairments identified in individuals with PAE are prevalent and have a major impact on the quality of life of individuals living with the effects of PAE. Understanding the structural connectivity that underpins these neurocognitive deficits is crucial for furthering our understanding of PAE. This thesis aims to examine the relationships between frontoparietal and temporal white matter as assessed by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) tractography, neurocognitive abilities, and age-related changes in children and youth with PAE.
    DTI was obtained from 31 participants with PAE and 31 unexposed controls aged 7-15 years. Mean diffusivity (MD) and fractional anisotropy (FA) were derived from tractography of the genu, body, and splenium of the corpus callosum (CC), bilateral cingulum, inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF), and superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF). All participants completed three language subtests from the NEPSY-II. Executive functioning was measured using the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning-Parental Report (BRIEF-PR), and verbal learning was assessed using the California Verbal Learning Test-Children's Version (CVLT-C) in the children with PAE only.
    The data presented in this thesis showed lower mean diffusivity values in the right superior longitudinal fasciculus in children and youth with PAE compared to unexposed peers. This cross-sectional analysis revealed positive linear correlations of fractional anisotropy versus age in white matter tracts except the genu of the corpus callosum, the right and left inferior longitudinal fasciculus, and negative linear correlations of mean diffusivity versus age in all white matter tracts. However, there were no significant age-group interactions. In addition, there were no significant associations between MD or FA of the tracts with age-standardized cognitive scores in either unexposed controls or children with PAE who scored lower than unexposed peers in language subtests and below population norms in tests that assess executive functioning and verbal learning.
    This thesis provides evidence of group differences in mean diffusivity of only one frontoparietal tract, the SLF, in children and youth with PAE, although these changes were not correlated to cognitive disability. Steeper decreases in mean diffusivity values with age have been observed in the SLF in children with PAE in previous research. This project also contributes to the existing limited literature that has identified similar age-related changes of diffusion metrics in white matter tracts in participants with PAE and typically developing peers, suggesting normative neurodevelopment in individuals with PAE.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Library with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.