Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Round-up

Wednesday, February 2, 2022
3:00pm - 4:00pm EDT
Location: Webinar

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Webinar Description:

The fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) SIG invites you to join them for a review of current research that you might use in your work building or expanding your program of services and supports for individuals with FASD. Dr. Christie L. M. Petrenko, Ph.D. (Research Associate at the University of Rochester) and Dr. Edward Riley, Ph.D. (Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology, College of Sciences, San Diego State University) will join the FASD SIG to discuss current research focused on the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure. 



Dr. Petrenko in a blue sweater smiling for a headshot with blue glasses and shoulder length blonde hairDr. Christie L. M. Petrenko, Ph.D., is a Research Associate at the University of Rochester, where she is the Assistant Director of Clinical Training, Department of Psychology. Broadly, Dr. Petrenko’s research focuses on the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on child development. She is especially interested in the prevention of secondary conditions (e.g., mental health problems, school disruptions, substance use, delinquency) in individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). She is currently evaluating a preventive intervention called Families on Track for young children with FASD and their families. Related research interests also include developmental psychopathology, risk, and protective factors, maltreatment, out-of-home care, and neuropsychology.



Research Interests

Prenatal alcohol exposure is a major public health problem and affects up to 2 to 5 percent of the population. Individuals with histories of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure commonly have life-long impairments in cognition and behavior and are at high risk for secondary conditions (e.g., mental health problems, trouble with the law, school disruptions, substance use). 

Dr. Petrenko’s early research largely focused on the neuropsychological functioning of children with FASD. She was particularly interested in the area of executive functioning and conducted several studies on how children with FASD solved problems in laboratory and social situations. In a related line of research, Dr. Petrenko investigated the effects of maltreatment, out-of-home care, family violence, and community violence exposure on children’s functioning. These experiences are very common in children with FASD but have received limited study in this population. Dr. Petrenko plans to address this gap in the literature in future studies.

Based on her early work, Dr. Petrenko identified a strong need for appropriate interventions for children with FASD. She received a Career Development Award (K01) from the National Institutes on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to develop and evaluate the Families on Track preventive intervention for young children with FASD (ages 4 to 8) and their families. Using a developmental psychopathology framework, Families on Track targets multiple risks and protective factors in children with FASD and their families to deflect children onto more adaptive developmental pathways and reduce the likelihood of later secondary conditions. A randomized controlled trial is underway and Dr. Petrenko plans to follow the children and their families longitudinally to evaluate the effects of the intervention and characterize risk and protective factors for the development of secondary conditions.


Dr. Riley in a black suit with striped shirt and tie smiling for a headshot with glasses, dark eyebrows, and grey hair and mustache

Edward Riley, Ph.D., is a Research Professor and the Emeritus Director of the Center for Behavioral Teratology at San Diego State University. He served as Chair of the U.S. National Task Force on FAS/FAE from 2000-2004 and is a Past-President of the Research Society on Alcohol (RSA), the Fetal Alcohol Study Group of the RSA, the Behavioral Teratology Society, and the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism. Dr. Riley has served as a member of the NIAAA Council and as Chair of the SAMHSA Expert Panel for the Center for Excellence on FASD. He has received numerous awards, including the RSA Distinguished Researcher Award, the NOFAS Research Recognition Award, the NIAAA Mendelson Award, the FASD Starfish Award, and most recently the Frank Seixas Award. He has a long-standing interest in alterations in brain and behavior following gestational alcohol exposure. More recently, Dr. Riley has become involved in diagnostic issues related to FASD and the use of eHealth technologies to enhance services to this population. He also directs the Collaborative Initiative on FASD, an international, multisite consortium funded by NIAAA.



Research Interests

It is well known that prenatal exposure to alcohol can affect the developing embryo and fetus and importantly can cause alterations in the normal development of brain and behavior. Dr. Riley’s research focuses on these changes, how they are produced, and how we might intervene to mitigate them. Using a multidisciplinary approach, including behavioral assessments, neuropsychological testing, brain imaging, and collaborations with scientists from SDSU, UCSD, and the Scripps Research Institute, a myriad of effects have been reported. In terms of changes in the brain, alterations in the basal ganglia, corpus callosum, cerebellum, and various areas of the cortex have been reported. Deficits in executive functioning, motor behaviors, and a variety of neuropsychological impairments have been examined. Besides a continuation of these descriptive changes, studies consist of functional imaging (fMRI) and correlational examinations between brain structural alterations and behavioral changes in an attempt to establish structure-function relationships. Predoctoral students and postdoctoral fellows have a wide variety of opportunities participating in these studies, and in extending the ongoing investigations depending upon available resources and the expertise each individual brings to the laboratory. Since September 2003, Dr. Riley has been the PI of the Administrative Core and Consortium Coordinator of the Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (CIFASD). This is a large multidisciplinary, multisite cooperative investigation of both basic science and clinical approaches to FASD on an international level.


Please Note:

    • There is no cost for this webinar.
    • CEUs are not offered for this webinar.
    • This webinar will be held on the Zoom Platform. You can test your connection with Zoom before joining the meeting here.
    • For disability accommodations-mail [email protected]
    • This webinar will be archived.