High-tech 'phrenology' to identify children with fetal alcohol syndrome

INDIANAPOLIS Indiana University School of Medicine is taking a close look at the faces of children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is paying for it to do so.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, the only preventable birth defect, can have a devastating impact on its victims, but in some cases the effects are so minimal children are denied needed assistance and benefits. The NIAAA awarded IU two grants totaling $784,334 to conduct the research and manage the data.

To better define the visual characteristics of the syndrome, IU researchers will use sophisticated technology and facial recognition techniques to examine the faces of children from across the globe.

"Some children exhibit classic features of FAS and other children have a more mild, less visually obvious version of the disorder, which may not be as recognizable but still can result in learning disabilities and behavioral disorders," said Tatiana Foroud, Ph.D., associate professor of medical and molecular genetics at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the principal investigator of the study.

Telltale signs of children with FAS are small eyes spaced far apart, an underdeveloped face, a smooth surface between the nose and upper lip, and growth retardation. The study will establish key points for recognition of FAS. To accomplish this, the talents of several disciplines are needed.

Jeffrey Huang, Ph.D., assistant professor, and Shiaofen Fang, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Computer and Information Science, are experts in facial recognition technology. They have been working with the National Institute of Justice and the U.S. Department of Defense for 10 years developing and improving technology for identity verification processes. Their expertise in facial scanning and computer science will be used to produce a model from which differences in facial patterns can be identified and then used to assist wit

Contact: Mary Hardin
Indiana University

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