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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Impaired odor identification in children with histories of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure

Prenatal alcohol exposure can lead to behavioral and cognitive impairments across multiple domains. Many of the brain regions impacted by prenatal alcohol exposure are also linked with olfactory processing, and odor identification deficits have been documented in certain neurological disorders associated with these brain regions.

As odor identification following prenatal alcohol exposure is not well studied, we compared odor identification in children with prenatal exposure to alcohol (AE) to typically developing controls (CON) (N = 16/group). It was hypothesized that children in the AE group would perform more poorly than children in the CON group on the San Diego Odor Identification Test, an identification test of 8 common household odorants.

Children exposed to alcohol during prenatal development were significantly impaired in olfactory identification (M = 5.95, SE = 0.37) compared to typically developing controls (M = 7.24, SE = 0.37).

These findings confirmed the hypothesis that prenatal exposure to alcohol is associated with odor identification deficits, and suggest that further research is warranted to identify the mechanisms underlying these deficits, the integrity of brain areas that are involved, and to determine whether olfactory performance might contribute to better identification of children at risk for behavioral and cognitive deficits.

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