Inefficient central processing and integration of visual, vestibular, and somatosensory information may contribute to poor balance and diminished postural control in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).
This pilot study examined sensorimotor performance and the sensory control of balance using a battery of clinical tests in combination with an experimental laboratory assessment that quantifies sensory subsystem use (i.e., sensory weighting) among a systematically diagnosed sample of children with FASD and children with typical development.
Using a case-control design, 10 children with FASD (8.0-15.9 years; 20% female) were compared to 10 age- and sex-matched controls on standardized clinical measures and on kinematic outcomes from the Multimodal Balance Entrainment Response system (MuMBER), a computerized laboratory assessment whereby visual, vestibular, and somatosensory input is manipulated at different frequencies during standing balance.
Children with FASD showed poorer sensorimotor performance across clinical outcomes with significant group differences (p < .05) on parent-reported movement behaviors (Sensory Processing Measure and Movement Assessment Battery for Children-2 Checklist) and performance on the Dynamic Gait Index. Experimental kinematic outcomes yielded statistically significant group differences (p <.10) on a small proportion of somatosensory and vestibular sensory weighting fractions and postural sway velocity in response to the manipulation of sensory input.
Preliminary findings showed small group differences in sensorimotor and sensory weighting behaviors, specifically those that rely on the integration of vestibular sensation. Differences must be examined and replicated with a larger sample of children with FASD to understand the impact on balance control and functional sensorimotor behaviors.
Key Words: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, prenatal alcohol exposure, postural control, balance, sensory weighting