Effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on
neurobehavioural development and
volume of rostral cingulate cortex subregions

J Psychiatry Neurosci 2022 July 26;47(4). doi:10.1503/jpn.210198


Maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy can have widespread and long-lasting effects on children’s cognition, behaviour, brain function and structure. The pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the anterior midcingulate cortex (MCC) mediate emotional and cognitive behaviours that are affected by prenatal alcohol exposure. However, the neurobehavioural development of the pregenual ACC and anterior MCC has not been examined in people with prenatal alcohol exposure.


We recruited 30 children and adolescents with prenatal alcohol exposure and 50 age- and gender-matched unexposed controls. We acquired structural MRI data sets on a 3 T scanner. We manually delineated 2 areas of the rostral cingulate cortex — the pregenual ACC and the anterior MCC — and compared them between groups. We measured behavioural and emotional problems using the Behaviour Assessment System for Children, 2nd Edition, Parent Rating Scale, and then explored their associations with rostral cingulate cortex volumes.


Intracranialnormalized volumes of the right pregenual ACC and the right total rostral cingulate cortex were significantly smaller in individuals with prenatal alcohol exposure than in unexposed controls. The volume of the right anterior MCC had a significant positive association with scores on the Internalizing Problems scale in individuals with prenatal alcohol exposure.


This study was cross-sectional, and detailed information about the timing and amount of exposure was not always available.


Prenatal alcohol exposure is associated with lower volumes in the right pregenual ACC. This finding may underlie some of the emotional and behavioural problems experienced by individuals with prenatal alcohol exposure.

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