Children and adults with prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) often have impaired sensory and motor function, including gross and fine motor difficulties, poor motor coordination, and sensory processing deficits.The main goal of this research was to better understand how sensory and motor areas of the brain are altered in children with PAE. We used resting state functional magnetic resonance Imaging (rs-fMRI) to examine sensorimotor areas and calculate “functional connectivity”, which measures how different areas of the brain function together.
We found that the sensorimotor area of the brain is organized very similarly in children with PAE and those without. However, we found that children with PAE had higher functional connectivity, suggesting that they may rely on additional brain regions when processing sensorimotor information, leading to lower network efficiency. Furthermore, sensorimotor function was related to facial dysmorphology in the children with PAE, suggesting that the different brain function may underlie the facial features associated with alcohol exposure.
Our study shows similar organization of the sensorimotor area, but altered connectivity in children with PAE. This highlights one way in which the brain of children with PAE may compensate for motor deficits, and lays a foundation for future studies of interventions and treatments designed to improved sensorimotor function for children with PAE.