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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1998 Dec;22(9):1998-2012.

Neuropsychological deficits in adolescents with fetal alcohol syndrome: clinical findings.

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School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle 98195, USA.


Understanding the nature of cognitive deficits among adolescent patients with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can direct future research on assessment and intervention. In an exploratory study, nine nonretarded teenagers with FAS were administered tests of IQ and adaptive behavior, and neuropsychological tests presumed sensitive to alcohol effects. Their performance was compared with psychometric norms and to data from a sample of 174 adolescents with minimal or no prenatal alcohol exposure. These nonretarded FAS patients commonly showed behavior problems, decreased social competence, and poor school performance. Neuropsychological testing revealed significant deficits, although no one neuropsychological profile characterized all patients and not all tests revealed problems. Relatively intact performance was observed in procedural memory, some measures of reaction time, and some reading measures. Deficits were seen on attentional and memory tasks tapping visual-spatial skills, short-term auditory attention and memory, declarative learning, and cognitive flexibility and planning. Difficulties in processing speed and accuracy were also seen. Comparison with a subgroup of 52 nonalcohol-exposed or minimally alcohol-exposed adolescents with a similar range of IQ scores demonstrated that deficits among these FAS patients were not fully explained by a general lowering of IQ.

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