Up to now, clinicians trying to diagnose fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) had no objective diagnostic tools to distinguish this syndrome from other developmental disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. But researchers at Queens University, in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, have developed a diagnostic test that measures certain eye movements, which are linked to brain abnormalities specific to FASD.

Fetal alcohol syndrome, which is at the severe end of this disorders spectrum, is associated with hyperactivity, difficulty with learning, and deficits in memory, understanding and reasoning. Full fetal alcohol syndrome occurs in 0.2 to 1.5 cases per 1,000 live births in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other alcohol-related fetal conditions are believed to occur about three times as often.

Using the eye movement test, the researchers can now diagnose the disorder and then track long-term therapeutic interventions.

Vol. No: 142:12Issue: 12/15/2005