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An fMRI study of behavioral response inhibition in adolescents with and without histories of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure

  • Author(s): Ware, AL
  • Infante, MA
  • O'Brien, JW
  • Tapert, SF
  • Jones, KL
  • Riley, EP
  • Mattson, SN
  • et al.

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© 2014 Elsevier B.V. Heavy prenatal alcohol exposure results in a range of deficits, including both volumetric and functional changes in brain regions involved in response inhibition such as the prefrontal cortex and striatum. The current study examined blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) response during a stop signal task in adolescents (ages 13-16. y) with histories of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure (AE, n=. 21) and controls (CON, n=. 21). Task performance was measured using percent correct inhibits during three difficulty conditions: easy, medium, and hard. Group differences in BOLD response relative to baseline motor responding were examined across all inhibition trials and for each difficulty condition separately. The contrast between hard and easy trials was analyzed to determine whether increasing task difficulty affected BOLD response. Groups had similar task performance and demographic characteristics, except for full scale IQ scores (AE. <. CON). The AE group demonstrated greater BOLD response in frontal, sensorimotor, striatal, and cingulate regions relative to controls, especially as task difficulty increased. When contrasting hard vs. easy inhibition trials, the AE group showed greater medial/superior frontal and cuneus BOLD response than controls. Results were unchanged after demographics and FAS diagnosis were statistically controlled. This was the first fMRI study to utilize a stop signal task, isolating fronto-striatal functioning, to assess response inhibition and the effects task difficulty in adolescents with prenatal alcohol exposure. Results suggest that heavy prenatal alcohol exposure disrupts neural function of this circuitry, resulting in immature cognitive processing and motor-association learning and neural compensation during response inhibition.

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