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Neuropsychol Rev. 2011 Jun;21(2):81-101. doi: 10.1007/s11065-011-9167-9. Epub 2011 Apr 19.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: neuropsychological and behavioral features.

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Department of Psychology, Center for Behavioral Teratology, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, USA.


Heavy prenatal alcohol exposure can cause alterations to the developing brain. The resulting neurobehavioral deficits seen following this exposure are wide-ranging and potentially devastating and, therefore, are of significant concern to individuals, families, communities, and society. These effects occur on a continuum, and qualitatively similar neuropsychological and behavioral features are seen across the spectrum of effect. The term fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) has been used to emphasize the continuous nature of the outcomes of prenatal alcohol exposure, with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) representing one point on the spectrum. This paper will provide a comprehensive review of the neuropsychological and behavioral effects of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure, including a discussion of the emerging neurobehavioral profile. Supporting studies of lower levels of exposure, brain-behavior associations, and animal model systems will be included when appropriate.

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