Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: An Overview

  • Edward P. RileyEmail author
  • M. Alejandra Infante
  • Kenneth R. Warren


When fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) was initially described, diagnosis was based upon physical parameters including facial anomalies and growth retardation, with evidence of developmental delay or mental deficiency. Forty years of research has shown that FAS lies towards the extreme end of what are now termed fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). The most profound effects of prenatal alcohol exposure are on the developing brain and the cognitive and behavioral effects that ensue. Alcohol exposure affects brain development via numerous pathways at all stages from neurogenesis to myelination. For example, the same processes that give rise to the facial characteristics of FAS also cause abnormal brain development. Behaviors as diverse as executive functioning to motor control are affected. This special issue of Neuropsychology Review addresses these changes in brain and behavior highlighting the relationship between the two. A diagnostic goal is to recognize FAS as a disorder of brain rather than one of physical characteristics.


Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) Prenatal alcohol exposure Brain-behavior 



The authors greatly acknowledge the help of Jason Dudley and Kristen Breit in preparing the figure for this manuscript. Preparation of this paper was supported by National Institute of Health NIAAA Grants R01 AA010417, U24 AA014811, and T32 AA013525 to epr. and was conducted in conjunction with the Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (CIFASD). More information about the CIFASD can be found at


The authors have no financial relationships to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward P. Riley
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. Alejandra Infante
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kenneth R. Warren
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Center for Behavioral TeratologySan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.San Diego State University/University of California San Diego, Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical PsychologySan DiegoUSA
  3. 3.National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and AlcoholismBethesdaUSA

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