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Fetal alcohol syndrome testing expands

Kingston, ON Improved technology, partnerships and collaboration across two provinces have allowed Queen's University scientists to dramatically expand the use of eye-movement tests that help identify and assess children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

"Our initial study was carried out with a relatively small group of children who had to travel to Queen's to participate in the experiment," notes Pharmacology and Toxicology professor James Reynolds, who leads the project. "Establishing a mobile laboratory allowed us to go where the kids are, and carry out these experiments in community settings."

Thanks to the cooperation of local health professionals and community members, the researchers tested more than 200 children in nine different Ontario and Alberta locations.

"Now we know that the results of eye movement testing are consistent across different geographical locations something that is absolutely critical if this type of testing is to be widely applicable," says Dr. Reynolds.

Until now, there have been few objective tools that will accurately measure brain function in young children. This breakthrough will add eye movement testing to the standard clinical assessment protocols currently in use, to determine the potential for identifying at-risk children.

The work was sponsored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) as part of a multi-university New Emerging Team project. The findings are highlighted today in an on-line article in the European Journal of Neuroscience.

"This is a most original finding, with clear clinical application," says Dr. Rmi Quirion, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction. "Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a significant health issue in Canada. The work of Dr Reynolds and his team is an excellent example of what CIHR aims for: improving the health of Canadians through cutting-edge, innovat

Contact: Nancy Dorrance
Queen's University

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