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Cognition affected by prenatal alcohol

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DETROIT, Aug 15, 2005 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Michigan researchers say they have found slower moderate to heavy prenatal alcohol exposure has a distinct affect on cognitive function.

Researchers say their study's results confirm earlier findings of slower processing speed and efficiency, particularly when cognitive tasks involve working memory.

"Prenatal alcohol exposure is often associated with slower reaction times and poorer attention in infancy, and some of these deficits may be at the core of poorer academic performance and behavior problems often seen later in childhood," said Matthew Burden, postdoctoral research fellow at Wayne State University School of Medicine and co-author of the study. "In cases of fetal alcohol syndrome ... lower IQ scores are common, often reaching the level of mental retardation. This is because alcohol consumed by the mother has a direct impact on the brain of the fetus.

"However, full FAS is not required to see this impact; it is just less obvious to detect across the array of exposures found in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which include effects of prenatal alcohol at lower drinking levels," said Burden.

The study is detailed in the August issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International.

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