Prenatal alcohol exposure is a major, preventable cause of behavioral and cognitive deficits in children. Despite extensive research, a unique neurobehavioral profile for children affected by prenatal alcohol exposure remains elusive. A fundamental question that must be addressed is how genetic and environmental factors interact with gestational alcohol exposure to produce neurobehavioral and neurobiological deficits in children. The core objectives of the NeuroDevNet team in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders is to create an integrated research program of basic and clinical investigations that will (1) identify genetic and epigenetic modifications that may be predictive of the neurobehavioral and neurobiological dysfunctions in offspring induced by gestational alcohol exposure and (2) determine the relationship between structural alterations in the brain induced by gestational alcohol exposure and functional outcomes in offspring. The overarching hypothesis to be tested is that neurobehavioral and neurobiological dysfunctions induced by gestational alcohol exposure are correlated with the genetic background of the affected child and/or epigenetic modifications in gene expression. The identification of genetic and/or epigenetic markers that are predictive of the severity of behavioral and cognitive deficits in children affected by gestational alcohol exposure will have a profound impact on our ability to identify children at risk.
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