Lebel CA, Gibbard WB, Tortorelli C, et al. Prenatal Exposure And Child brain and mental Health (PEACH) study: protocol for a cohort study of children and youth with prenatal alcohol exposure. BMJ Open. 2021;11(5):e051660. Published 2021 May 11. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2021-051660
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), which is caused by prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE), affects an estimated 4% of North Americans, and is the most common preventable cause of intellectual disability. Mental health problems, including anxiety and depression, are experienced by nearly all individuals with FASD. However, there is very limited knowledge about effective mental health treatments for individuals with FASD; effective treatments are hindered in part due to a lack of understanding of the basic neurobiology underlying internalising disorders in youth with FASD.
Methods and analysis
The Prenatal Exposure And Child brain and mental Health (PEACH) study includes children aged 7–18 years. We will use longitudinal neuroimaging (anatomical T1-weighted, diffusion and passive viewing function MRI) and mental health assessments (Behaviour Assessment Scale for Children, Multi-dimensional Anxiety Scale for Children, Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI-2), Kiddie Scale of Affective Disorders) to: (1) characterise brain development trajectories in youth with FASD, (2) determine whether brain alterations mediate increased anxiety and depression in youth with FASD and (3) identify baseline brain features that predict changes of anxiety and depression symptoms over the next 2 years. All of this will be done while considering sex and adverse postnatal experiences, which can significantly impact mental health and brain outcomes. This project will forge new understanding of FASD and mental health from a neurobiological perspective, highlighting key time periods (ie, sensitive windows) and brain regions (ie, that may be susceptible to neurostimulation), while identifying factors that predict individual trajectories of anxiety and depression symptoms.