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J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2011 May;17(3):463-73. doi: 10.1017/S1355617711000063.

Neuropsychological comparison of children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure and an IQ-matched comparison group.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Center for Behavioral Teratology, San Diego State University, San Diego, California.


An objective in current research on children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) is to determine neurobehavioral profiles to identify affected individuals. Deficits observed when children with FASD are compared to typically developing controls may be confounded by lower IQ scores in the subjects with FASD. To determine if prenatal alcohol exposure is associated with neurobehavioral deficits after controlling for IQ differences, multivariate analyses were conducted to compare alcohol-exposed (ALC) subjects to a comparison group closely matched on IQ (IQC). The initial analysis included a broad neuropsychological battery with measures of language, executive function, visual-motor integration, motor ability, and academic achievement. Additional, in depth comparisons focused on visual sustained attention, verbal learning and memory and parent/guardian-reported behavior problems. Group differences (ALC < IQC) were found on verbal learning and parent-rated behavior problems. Group differences were marginally significant (measures within the broad neuropsychological comparison) or not significant (visual attention, retention of verbal material) on the remaining comparisons. Therefore, some deficits (e.g., verbal learning and behavior problems) in children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure cannot be explained by the lower FSIQ observed in the population. These areas of relative weakness could be useful in distinguishing children with FASD from other children with lowered IQ.

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