Objective assessment of ADHD core symptoms in children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure

Physiol Behav. 2015 Sep 1:148:45-50. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.10.014. Epub 2014 Oct 23.


Attention deficits are often observed in children with prenatal alcohol exposure and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is commonly diagnosed in this population. This study used an objective assessment tool to examine differences between alcohol-exposed and non-exposed children on core symptoms of ADHD: inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Two groups of individuals, aged 7-14years, participated in the study: alcohol-exposed children (AE, n=43), and non-exposed children (CON, n=54). Subjects were evaluated with the Quotient ADHD System, which provides objective data on ADHD core symptoms by combining an infrared motion tracking system and a computerized continuous performance task. Twelve separate ANCOVAs controlling for the effects of age and sex, were conducted on attention and motion variables. Results revealed that in comparison to the CON group, the AE group was significantly (p's<.05) less accurate, made an increased number of omission errors, had longer response latencies, and increased variability in response time. Moreover, the AE group spent less time staying still, and made an increased number of head movements, which traveled a larger distance, covered a greater area, and demonstrated a less complex movement pattern. No significant group differences were observed on the number of commission errors and temporal scaling. Our findings provide further support for the notion that inattention is a core deficit in children prenatally exposed to alcohol. Results from this study are also consistent with parent reports of increased hyperactivity. The Quotient ADHD System may be a useful objective measure of ADHD symptomatology in children with FASD.

Keywords: Activity; Alcohol; Attention; Fetal; Impulsivity; Prenatal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / etiology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / physiopathology*