40th Annual RSA Scientific Meeting JUNE 2017 Denver, Colorado

Dr Nadine Lindinger gave a data talk presentation at the FASD study group as part of the Research

Society on Alcoholism (RSA) in June in Denver. Her abstract was NEW EVIDENCE FOR THE


Given that not all children with prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) are adversely affected and early remediation is optimal, infant measures are important for identifying which children are at greatest risk for adverse cognitive effects and, therefore, warrant referral for early intervention. Novelty preference on the Fagan Test of Infant Intelligence (FTII) assesses recognition memory; duration of visual fixation assesses information processing speed. Both measures have predictive validity for later cognitive outcomes, including verbal and performance IQ. Belsky play assesses symbolic play—both during free play and when the examiner attempts to elicit imitation, which is predictive of verbal IQ.

Cape Coloured (mixed ancestry) mothers were recruited prospectively, using timeline follow-back interviews to ascertain alcohol consumption. FTII was administered to 148 infants with heavy PAE and non-exposed controls at 6.5 months postpartum; FTII and Belsky play, to 145 infants at 12 months.

Frequency of alcohol consumption was related to poorer recognition memory at 6.5 months (r=-0.19; p=0.02) and when averaged across the two infant assessments (r=-0.19; p=0.02). PAE was also related to slower processing speed at 12 months (r=0.22; p=0.008) and averaged across the two ages (r=0.17; p=0.03). Additionally, PAE was associated with poorer elicited play (r=-0.17; p=0.046). Recognition memory was related to elicited play (r=0.23, p=0.006), but processing speed was not (r=-0.09; p>0.20). Prenatal exposure to smoking, marijuana, and methamphetamine, socioeconomic status and age at testing were not related to FTII (all ps>0.10). Age at testing was related to elicited play (r=0.26; p=0.004), but PAE remained significant after adjustment for infant age (β=-0.18; p=0.04). These data confirm findings from two previous studies that PAE is associated with poorer performance on FTII and elicited play. All three measures are markedly more predictive of cognitive function in middle childhood, compared with conventional assessments of infant cognition, such as the Bayley Scales, and are specifically related to PAE rather than smoking or other drug exposure. We have now found that infant recognition memory is modestly correlated with symbolic play, but processing speed is unrelated to these two other domains, suggesting that assessment on all three infant measures can provide a more comprehensive evaluation of risk for impairment later in development.

She also presented a poster on this same topic during the RSA conference.

© 2011-2017 Acsent: Department of Psychology University of Cape Town