Prenatal alcohol exposure alters the patterns of facial asymmetry

C. P. Klingenberg, L. Wetherill, J. Rogers, E. Moore, R. Ward, I. Autti-Rämö, Å Fagerlund, S. W. Jacobson, L. K. Robinson, H. E. Hoyme, S. N. Mattson, T. K. Li, E. P. Riley, T. Foroud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Directional asymmetry, the systematic differences between the left and right body sides, is widespread in human populations. Changes in directional asymmetry are associated with various disorders that affect craniofacial development. Because facial dysmorphology is a key criterion for diagnosing fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), the question arises whether in utero alcohol exposure alters directional asymmetry in the face. Data on the relative position of 17 morphologic landmarks were obtained from facial scans of children who were classified as either FAS or control. Shape data obtained from the landmarks were analyzed with the methods of geometric morphometrics. Our analyses showed significant directional asymmetry of facial shape, consisting primarily of a shift of midline landmarks to the right and a displacement of the landmarks around the eyes to the left. The asymmetry of FAS and control groups differed significantly and average directional asymmetry was increased in those individuals exposed to alcohol in utero. These results suggest that the developmental consequences of fetal alcohol exposure affect a wide range of craniofacial features in addition to those generally recognized and used for diagnosis of FAS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)649-657
Number of pages9
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2010


  • Directional asymmetry
  • Discriminant function
  • Facial dysmorphology
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Procrustes superimposition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Medicine(all)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neurology
  • Toxicology
  • Health(social science)

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