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Author Notes:

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Sarah N. Mattson, Ph.D., 6330 Alvarado Court, Suite 100, San Diego, CA 92120 USA. Phone: 619-594-7228. Fax: 619-594-1895. sarah.mattson@sdsu.edu

The Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (CIFASD; E. Riley, San Diego State University, Principal Investigator) includes 16 different centers where data collection and analysis take place; the data collection sites and associated investigators described in this paper are: San Diego State University (S.N. Mattson), the University of New Mexico and Northern Plains (P.A. May, W.O. Kalberg), University of California, Los Angeles (E.R. Sowell) and Emory University (C.A. Coles and J.A. Kable).

The authors extend gratitude to the families and children who graciously participate in our studies and to the members of the Center for Behavioral Teratology for ongoing assistance and support.

We also acknowledge the efforts in data collection of Kristina Hubbard, Delilah Bolo, and Heather Holden in San Diego; Suzanne Houston, Ariel Starr, and Genevieve Rodriguez in Los Angeles; Sharron Paige-Whitaker in Atlanta; and Alfredo Aragón, Ethan White, and Stephanie Rueda in Albuquerque.

The authors have no financial or other conflicts of interest.


Research Funding:

All or part of this work was done in conjunction with the Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (CIFASD), which is funded by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA).

Research described in this paper was supported by NIAAA grant numbers U01 AA014834 (Mattson), U24 AA014811 (Riley), T32 AA013525 (Riley), U24 AA014818 (Barnett), and U24 AA014815 (Jones).


  • Social Sciences
  • Science & Technology
  • Life Sciences & Biomedicine
  • Psychology, Clinical
  • Neurosciences
  • Psychology
  • Neurosciences & Neurology
  • fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)
  • fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)
  • attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • neurobehavioral profile
  • specificity

Neuropsychological Deficits Associated With Heavy Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Are Not Exacerbated by ADHD

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Journal Title:

Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition


Volume 27, Number 6


, Pages 713-724

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


Objective: Neuropsychological functioning of individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or heavy prenatal alcohol exposure has been well documented independently. This study examined the interaction between both factors on cognitive performance in children. Method: As part of a multisite study, 344 children (8-16 y, M = 12.28, SD = 2.52) completed a comprehensive neuropsychological battery. Four subject groups were tested: children with histories of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure (AE) and ADHD (AE+, n = 90), alcohol-exposed without ADHD, (AE-, n = 38), nonexposed with ADHD (ADHD, n = 80), and nonexposed without ADHD (CON, n = 136). Results: Separate 2(AE) × 2(ADHD) MANCOVAs revealed significant main and interactive effects of ADHD and AE on overall WISC-IV, D-KEFS, and CANTAB performance. Individual ANOVAs revealed significant interactions on 2 WISC-IV indices [Verbal Comprehension (VCI), Perceptual Reasoning (PRI)], and four D-KEFS and CANTAB subtests [Design Fluency, Verbal Fluency, Trail Making, Spatial Working Memory]. Follow-up analyses demonstrated no difference between AE+ and AE- groups on these measures. The combined AE+/- group demonstrated more severe impairment than the ADHD group on VCI and PRI, but there were no other differences between clinical groups. Conclusions: These results support a combined AE+/- group for neuropsychological research and indicate that, in some cases, the neuropsychological effects seen in ADHD are altered by prenatal alcohol exposure. The effects of alcohol exposure on verbal comprehension and perceptual reasoning were greater than those related to having ADHD without alcohol exposure, although both conditions independently resulted in cognitive impairment compared to controls. Clinically, these findings demonstrate task-dependent patterns of impairment across clinical disorders.

Copyright information:

© 2013 American Psychological Association.

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