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Deficits in response inhibition correlate with oculomotor control in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and prenatal alcohol exposure

Behavioural Brain Research
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2013.10.040
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
  • Prenatal Alcohol Exposure
  • Eye Movement Control
  • Psychometric Testing
  • Response Inhibition
  • Attention
  • Medicine


Abstract Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) or prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) frequently exhibit impairment on tasks measuring inhibition. The objective of this study was to determine if a performance-based relationship exists between psychometric tests and eye movement tasks in children with FASD. Participants for this dataset were aged 5–17 years and included those diagnosed with an FASD (n=72), those with PAE but no clinical FASD diagnosis (n=21), and typically developing controls (n=139). Participants completed a neurobehavioral test battery, which included the NEPSY-II subtests of auditory attention, response set, and inhibition. Each participant completed a series of saccadic eye movement tasks, which included the antisaccade and memory-guided tasks. Both the FASD and the PAE groups performed worse than controls on the subtest measures of attention and inhibition. Compared with controls, the FASD group made more errors on the antisaccade and memory-guided tasks. Among the combined FASD/PAE group, inhibition and switching errors were negatively correlated with direction errors on the antisaccade task but not on the memory-guided task. There were no significant correlations in the control group. These data suggests that response inhibition deficits in children with FASD/PAE are associated with difficulty controlling saccadic eye movements which may point to overlapping brain regions damaged by prenatal alcohol exposure. The results of this study demonstrate that eye movement control tasks directly relate to outcome measures obtained with psychometric tests that are used during FASD diagnosis, and may therefore help with early identification of children who would benefit from a multidisciplinary diagnostic assessment.

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