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Saturday, November 26, 2022

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SDSU psychology students spread the word about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy. SDSU psychology students spread the word about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy.

Raising Awareness of the Risks

Psychology students and faculty went public to warn of the dangers of drinking during pregnancy.

College students stress about a lot of things—grades, finances, exams, even friendships. Giving birth to a neurologically impaired child is not high on the list, but maybe it should be.

San Diego State University psychology students and faculty were out on campus today to raise awareness of the dangers of drinking during pregnancy.

With posters and literature advocating for alcohol-free pregnancy, the students joined throngs of others across the world on Sept. 9, International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day.

Elsewhere, members of the Southern California affiliate of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (SoCal NOFAS) are handing out “Pregnant? Don’t Drink” coasters to San Diego area bars and restaurants.

Pioneers in research

SDSU psychology professors Edward Riley, Sarah Mattson and Jennifer Thomas are nationally recognized for their research on fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

Riley and Mattson were among the first scientists to show that prenatal alcohol exposure could alter brain and behavior—even in children without the facial characteristics associated with FASD.

With uninterrupted funding of nearly $50 million from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a program of the prestigious National Institutes of Health, the three researchers have combined forces in the SDSU Center for Behavioral Teratology.

“We’re talking about a condition as common as autism and ADHD,” Riley said. “It’s the most common developmental disorder that’s entirely preventable and the most common cause of intellectual deficits that can be prevented.”

Long-term effects

Rashmi Risbud is an SDSU graduate student studying and working under Thomas in the behavioral teratology center.

Her thesis focuses on whether adolescents with FASD may be more susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse than their peers without FASD, and whether they are more vulnerable to the effects of adolescent alcohol exposure on cognitive ability and brain function.

The challenges faced by adults with FASD constitute one of the next frontiers in FASD search, according to Riley.

“[We have] advanced enormously on several fronts,” he said. “However, one area that has not received a lot of attention is what happens as these individuals mature into adulthood. Little is known about the long-term health and behavioral outcomes that they may face.”