Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: neuropsychological and behavioral features

Neuropsychol Rev. 2011 Jun;21(2):81-101. doi: 10.1007/s11065-011-9167-9. Epub 2011 Apr 19.


Heavy prenatal alcohol exposure can cause alterations to the developing brain. The resulting neurobehavioral deficits seen following this exposure are wide-ranging and potentially devastating and, therefore, are of significant concern to individuals, families, communities, and society. These effects occur on a continuum, and qualitatively similar neuropsychological and behavioral features are seen across the spectrum of effect. The term fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) has been used to emphasize the continuous nature of the outcomes of prenatal alcohol exposure, with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) representing one point on the spectrum. This paper will provide a comprehensive review of the neuropsychological and behavioral effects of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure, including a discussion of the emerging neurobehavioral profile. Supporting studies of lower levels of exposure, brain-behavior associations, and animal model systems will be included when appropriate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / etiology
  • Behavioral Symptoms / etiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Developmental Disabilities / etiology*
  • Developmental Disabilities / psychology
  • Educational Status
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / diagnosis
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Language
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Motor Activity
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pregnancy
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Visual Perception / physiology