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Neuropsychology. 2006 May;20(3):361-9.

Focused and shifting attention in children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure.

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  • 1Center for Behavioral Teratology, Department of Psychology, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92120, USA. smattson@sunstroke.sdsu.edu


Attention deficits are a hallmark of the teratogenic effects of alcohol. However, characterization of these deficits remains inconclusive. Children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure and nonexposed controls were evaluated using a paradigm consisting of three conditions: visual focus, auditory focus, and auditory-visual shift of attention. For the focus conditions, participants responded manually to visual or auditory targets. For the shift condition, participants alternated responses between visual targets and auditory targets. For the visual focus condition, alcohol-exposed children had lower accuracy and slower reaction time for all intertarget intervals (ITIs), while on the auditory focus condition, alcohol-exposed children were less accurate but displayed slower reaction time only on the longest ITI. Finally, for the shift condition, the alcohol-exposed group was accurate but had slowed reaction times. These results indicate that children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure have pervasive deficits in visual focused attention and deficits in maintaining auditory attention over time. However, no deficits were noted in the ability to disengage and reengage attention when required to shift attention between visual and auditory stimuli, although reaction times to shift were slower.

Copyright (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved.

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