Deficits in arithmetic error detection in infants with prenatal alcohol exposure: An ERP study

Andrea Berger, Michael Shmueli, Svetlana Lisson, Mattan S. Ben-Shachar, Nadine M. Lindinger, Catherine E. Lewis, Neil C. Dodge, Christopher D. Molteno, Ernesta M. Meintjes, Joseph L. Jacobson, Sandra W. Jacobson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) is associated with a range of physical, cognitive, and behavioral problems, particularly in arithmetic. We report ERP data collected from 32 infants (mean age = 6.8 mo; SD = 0.6; range = 6.1–8.1; 16 typically developing [TD]; 16 prenatally alcohol-exposed) during a task designed to assess error detection. Evidence of error monitoring at this early age suggests that precursors of the onset of executive control can already be detected in infancy. As predicted, the ERPs of the TD infants, time-locked to the presentation of the solution to simple arithmetic equations, showed greater negative activity for the incorrect solution condition at middle-frontal scalp areas. Spectral analysis indicated specificity to the 6–7 Hz frequency range. By contrast, the alcohol-exposed infants did not show the increased middle-frontal negativity seen in the TD group nor the increased power in the 6–7 Hz frequency, suggesting a marked developmental delay in error detection and/or early impairment in information processing of small quantities. Overall, our research demonstrates that (a) the brain network involved in error detection can be identified and highly specified in TD young infants, and (b) this effect is replicable and can be utilized for studying developmental psychopathology at very early ages.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100722
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • EEG phase synchronization
  • Error detection
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
  • Infants
  • Prenatal alcohol exposure
  • Theta

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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