Understanding Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs): Toward Identification of a Behavioral Phenotype
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AbstractFetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) currently represent the leading cause of mental retardation in North America, ahead of Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. The damaging effects of alcohol on the developing brain have a cascading impact on the social and neurocognitive profiles of affected individuals. Researchers investigating the profiles of children with FASDs have found impairments in learning and memory, executive functioning, and language, as well as hyperactivity, impulsivity, poor communication skills, difficulties with social and moral reasoning, and psychopathology. The primary goal of this review paper is to examine current issues pertaining to the identification of a behavioral phenotype in FASDs, as well as to address related screening and diagnostic concerns. We conclude that future research initiatives comparing children with FASDs to nonalcohol-exposed children with similar cognitive and socioemotional profiles should aid in uncovering the unique behavioral phenotype for FASDs.