Zangenehpour, Shahin3; Javadi, Pasha4; Ervin, Frank R3; Palmour, Roberta M3; Ptito, Maurice1
1 Psykiatrisk Center København, Mental Health Services, The Capital Region of Denmark2 Neuropsykiatrisk laboratorium, Psykiatrisk Center København, Mental Health Services, The Capital Region of Denmark3 McGill University4 School of Optometry, University of Montreal, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders display behavioural and intellectual impairments that strongly implicate dysfunction within the frontal cortex. Deficits in social behaviour and cognition are amongst the most pervasive outcomes of prenatal ethanol exposure. Our naturalistic vervet monkey model of fetal alcohol exposure (FAE) provides an unparalleled opportunity to study the neurobehavioral outcomes of prenatal ethanol exposure in a controlled experimental setting. Recent work has revealed a significant reduction of the neuronal population in the frontal lobes of these monkeys. We used an intersensory matching procedure to investigate audiovisual perception of socially relevant stimuli in young FAE vervet monkeys. Here we show a domain-specific deficit in audiovisual integration of socially relevant stimuli. When FAE monkeys were shown a pair of side-by-side videos of a monkey concurrently presenting two different calls along with a single audio track matching the content of one of the calls, they were not able to match the correct video to the single audio track. This was manifest by their average looking time being equally spent towards both the matching and non-matching videos. However, a group of normally developing monkeys exhibited a significant preference for the non-matching video. This inability to integrate and thereby discriminate audiovisual stimuli was confined to the integration of faces and voices as revealed by the monkeys' ability to match a dynamic face to a complex tone or a black-and-white checkerboard to a pure tone, presumably based on duration and/or onset-offset synchrony. Together, these results suggest that prenatal ethanol exposure negatively affects a specific domain of audiovisual integration. This deficit is confined to the integration of information that is presented by the face and the voice and does not affect more elementary aspects of sensory integration.