KINGSTON, Ont. A simple test that measures eye movement may help to identify children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and ultimately lead to improved treatment for the condition, say Queen's University researchers.
At present there are no objective diagnostic tools that can be used to distinguish between children with FASD which affects approximately one per cent of children in Canada and those with other developmental disorders such as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Researcher James Reynolds and graduate student Courtney Green, of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and the Centre for Neuroscience Studies, will present their findings next week at the annual meeting of the international Society for Neuroscience in Washington, D.C.
"Having a set of tests that can be used as diagnostic tools for fetal alcohol syndrome and all of the other behavioural disorders classified under the broader term fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is tremendously valuable," says Dr. Reynolds, who is part of a $1.25-million Queen's-led team focusing on fetal alcohol syndrome, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. "Now we can begin to identify specific deficits in these children."
Many of the behavioural tests used to assess children with FASD are geared to white, middle-class English-speaking people, notes Ms Green. "The biggest problem [in current tests] is cultural insensitivity," she says. "By measuring eye movement we can cut across cultural barriers and provide objectivity in identifying the disorder."
In a pilot study involving 25 girls and boys aged eight to 12, the Queen's team found that children with FASD have specific brain abnormalities which can be measured with eye movement testing. Defined as "birth defects resulting from a mother's consumption of alcohol during pregnancy", fetal alcohol syndrome is associated with hyperactivity, difficulty in learning and deficits in mem
Contact: Nancy Dorrance