Novel Study Uncovered A Link Between Changes In Children’s Facial Shapes And Mothers’ Alcohol Consumption Both Before And During Pregnancy

Due to this, children with FASD may have difficulty in school, poor social skills, behavioral or impulse control problems, and difficulty working toward goals.

It has long been known that FASD is caused by a mother’s particularly heavy drinking during pregnancy. Until now, though, the impact of low alcohol consumption on a child’s facial development was not well known.

In the study, the researchers utilized deep learning and AI to analyze three-dimensional (3D) images of 3,149 children who were 9 years old. The team did the same with 2,477 children who were 13 years old.

These child study participants were part of the Generation R Study, a population-based study in The Netherlands of expectant mothers and their kids from fetal life onwards. However, the children included in this particular study were born between January 2006 and April 2009.

Since the face is complex, analyzing it without the use of advanced technology is difficult. So, even though 3D imaging was helpful, Roshchupkin explained how the analysis also required a more advanced algorithm.

“For this task, we developed an AI-based algorithm, which takes high-resolution 3D images of the face and produces 200 unique measurements or ‘traits,'” he detailed.

“We analyzed these to search for associations with prenatal alcohol exposure, and we developed heat maps to display the particular facial features associated with the mothers’ alcohol consumption.”

In conjunction with the images, the researchers also collected questionnaire responses from the women during their early, mid, and late pregnancy stages.

Afterward, this allowed the team to split the mothers into three distinct groups: those who never drank before or during pregnancy, mothers who drank during the three months prior to conception but stopped after becoming pregnant, and mothers who drank during pregnancy.

This led the researchers to uncover a “statistically significant association” between fetal alcohol exposure and face shape among 9-year-old children. And the more alcohol a mother drank, the more significant these facial changes were.

Some of the most common traits included a shortened nose, turned-up nose tip, turned-in lower eyelid, and turned-out chin.

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