New 'eye movement' test may help treat fetal alcohol syndrome

November 11, 2005

KINGSTON, Ont. - A simple test that measures eye movement may help to identify children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and ultimately lead to improved treatment for the condition, say Queen's University researchers.

At present there are no objective diagnostic tools that can be used to distinguish between children with FASD - which affects approximately one per cent of children in Canada - and those with other developmental disorders such as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Researcher James Reynolds and graduate student Courtney Green, of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and the Centre for Neuroscience Studies, will present their findings next week at the annual meeting of the international Society for Neuroscience in Washington, D.C.

"Having a set of tests that can be used as diagnostic tools for fetal alcohol syndrome and all of the other behavioural disorders classified under the broader term fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is tremendously valuable," says Dr. Reynolds, who is part of a $1.25-million Queen's-led team focusing on fetal alcohol syndrome, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. "Now we can begin to identify specific deficits in these children."

Many of the behavioural tests used to assess children with FASD are geared to white, middle-class English-speaking people, notes Ms Green. "The biggest problem [in current tests] is cultural insensitivity," she says. "By measuring eye movement we can cut across cultural barriers and provide objectivity in identifying the disorder."

In a pilot study involving 25 girls and boys aged eight to 12, the Queen's team found that children with FASD have specific brain abnormalities which can be measured with eye movement testing. Defined as "birth defects resulting from a mother's consumption of alcohol during pregnancy", fetal alcohol syndrome is associated with hyperactivity, difficulty in learning and deficits in memory, understanding and reasoning, as well as problems dealing with stressful situations.

The next stage of the Queen's research will be to make the eye movement test mobile and transport it to targeted areas, such as northern and rural parts of Ontario, where FASD is believed to be more prevalent. The researchers envision this as a multi-centre project, in which other participants will work from the same set of pooled data.

"There is a clear need to develop new tools that can be used to reliably and objectively measure the brain injury of FASD," says Dr. Reynolds. "Ideally, these tools need to be mobile, inexpensive, and easy to use, for both diagnosis and the long-term evaluation of therapeutic interventions. Eye movements are ideally suited for this purpose."

Using the new functional MRI facility at Queen's, the team will then be able to measure differences in brain activity between children with fetal alcohol syndrome and those with other developmental disorders such as ADHD.

"Having access to this facility will have a huge impact on our research program," Dr. Reynolds says. "It allows us to create an integrated research strategy for carrying out studies to provide functional brain imaging data that can be directly related to neuro-behavioural deficits in individual children with FASD."
-end-
Contacts:

Nancy Dorrance, Queen's News & Media Services, 613-533-2869 Therese Greenwood, Queen's News & Media Services, 613-533-6907

Attention broadcasters: Queen's has facilities to provide broadcast quality audio and video feeds. For television interviews, we can provide a live, real-time double ender from Kingston fibre optic cable. Please call for details.

Queen's University

Related Alcohol Articles from Brightsurf:

Alcohol use changed right after COVID-19 lockdown
One in four adults reported a change in alcohol use almost immediately after stay-at-home orders were issued: 14% reported drinking more alcohol and reported higher levels of stress and anxiety than those who did not drink and those whose use stayed the same.

Changes in hospitalizations for alcohol use disorder in US
Changes over nearly two decades in the rate of hospitalizations and in-hospital deaths from alcohol use disorder in the US were examined in this study.

Associations of alcohol consumption, alcohol-induced passing out with risk of dementia
The risk of future dementia associated with overall alcohol consumption and alcohol-induced loss of consciousness in a population of current drinkers was examined in this observational study with more than 131,000 adults.

New alcohol genes uncovered
Do you have what is known as problematic alcohol use?

Does estrogen influence alcohol use disorder?
A new study from researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago shows that high estrogen levels may make alcohol more rewarding to female mice.

Sobering new data on drinking and driving: 15% of US alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities involve alcohol under the legal limit
A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier, found that motor vehicle crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) below the legal limit of 0.08 percent accounted for 15% of alcohol-involved crash deaths in the United States.

Alcohol-induced deaths in US
National vital statistics data from 2000 to 2016 were used to examine how rates of alcohol-induced deaths (defined as those deaths due to alcohol consumption that could be avoided if alcohol weren't involved) have changed in the US and to compare the results by demographic groups including sex, race/ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status and geographic location.

Cuts in alcohol duty linked to 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England
Government cuts to alcohol taxes have had dramatic consequences for public health, including nearly 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England since 2012, according to new research from the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR).

Integrated stepped alcohol treatment for people in HIV care improves both HIV & alcohol outcomes
Increasing the intensity of treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD) over time improves alcohol-related outcomes among people with HIV, according to new clinical research supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The Lancet:Targets to reduce harmful alcohol use are likely to be missed as global alcohol intake increases
Increasing rates of alcohol use suggest that the world is not on track to achieve targets against harmful alcohol use, according to a study of 189 countries' alcohol intake between 1990-2017 and estimated intake up to 2030, published in The Lancet.

Read More: Alcohol News and Alcohol Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.