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Relationship between dysmorphic features and general cognitive function in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Nina Ervalahti, Marit Korkman, Ase Fagerlund, Ilona Autti-Rämö, Leena Loimu, H Eugene Hoyme
American Journal of Medical Genetics. Part A 2007 December 15, 143A (24): 2916-23
18000897
Prenatal alcohol exposure may adversely affect fetal development, causing growth restriction, distinctive craniofacial anomalies, and central nervous system dysfunction. The continuum of associated adverse fetal outcomes is most accurately termed fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). The purpose of this study was to further clarify the relationship between dysmorphic features and general cognitive capacity in a study on Finnish children with FASD. Forty-eight 8- to 16-year-old children with FASD underwent a dysmorphology examination and an assessment of cognitive capacity. Dysmorphic features and growth deficiency were quantified by assigning each child a total dysmorphology score (TDS). Six subtests from the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-III) were used for assessment of general cognitive capacity. Our results show a significant correlation between the TDS and cognitive capacity was found, suggesting that children with more severe growth deficiency and dysmorphic features have more cognitive limitations. Birth measures of length and weight correlated with general cognitive capacity. Head circumference correlated only with Performance IQ. These findings imply an inverse relationship between growth deficiency/dysmorphic features and cognitive function in children with FASD. Although the correlations are significant, the data suggest that in individual cases, the TDS cannot reliably predict cognitive function in later life.

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