New research into fetal alcohol spectrum disorder offers hope

Regular exercise can help repair brain damage caused by drinking – including in children exposed to alcohol before they were born.

“If you exercise, even in adulthood … that tends to lead to the production of more new cells in the brain and you tend to have an increase in cognitive capacity,” said Brian Christie, senior scholar and associate professor in the division of medical sciences at the University of Victoria.

Since he began research into the disorder in 2002, Christie has found that increasing cardiovascular systems supports the development of new neurons, the functional cells in the brain. In one of his studies, children with FASD play computer games while wired to recumbent bicycles. As the children pedal their bikes and play the games, which are designed to test cognitive abilities, the kids’ heart rates and brain function are tracked.

“Basically, they’re computer-like games, except they’re designed specifically to improve underlying cognitive abilities, including attention and working memory and inhibitory control,” said Kimberly Kerns, associate professor in the department of psychology at UVic.

She’s collaborating with Christie on the cycling project, now funded by NeuroDevNet through the Network of Centres of Excellence, which are aimed at helping children with neurodevelopmental disorders.

Christie and his colleagues in the medical sciences are also continuing research into repairing damage caused by exposure to alcohol in the unborn, through the prenatal supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids and choline, an essential nutrient.

“The baby’s brain is unusual in that it’s really highly active in generating new neurons, and that’s something that the adult brain doesn’t do,” Christie said.

Kerns has also collaborated with the computer science department at UVic to create a new set of electronic programs, not related to the exercise study, meant to boost brain function in kids with FASD.

The games are already being administered through Kerns’ colleagues in Edmonton schools. In 2007/08, Kerns used similar electronic learning tools on children with FASD in Sooke schools. The project is one she’d like to bring to Victoria.

This month, Kerns also begins a pilot project focused on using meditation to improve brain function in adults diagnosed with FASD. The six subjects of the study will use a “mindfulness-based approach to self-regulation and behavioural regulation,” she explained.

Additionally, one of Kerns’ students is conducting an experiment into suggestibility in FASD patients, through the Complex Developmental Behavioural Conditions network at the Queen Alexandra Foundation for Children.

“It may be that an individual with FASD, in an interrogative session, might all of a sudden believe they have done something, even if they haven’t, if they’re highly suggestible,” Kerns said of the need for the research.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ron Sivorot, business director at Kennametal’s Langford site, the Greater Victoria facility that made a component being used on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. (Jake Romphf, Black Press Media)
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover using piece made at Kennametal’s Langford site

The Greater Victoria plant’s tooth blank is helping the rover’s drill collect rock cores

A provincially appointed consultant has recommended a change to the funding formula for the VicPD that will save Esquimalt a significant amount of money. (Black Press Media file photo)
Esquimalt to save a bundle on policing costs under new formula

Provincial consultant studied funding model, resource deployment for VicPD

A rockfall closed Finlayson Arm Road and West Shore Parkway on Friday (March 5) afternoon. (Twitter/BC Transportation)
UPDATED: Malahat reopens following rockfall

Section of Trans-Canada Highway was scheduled for intermittent closures today for rock scaling work

A Victoria resident was scammed out of $1,700 after a fraudster impersonated a police officer and convinced the victim to pay a non-existent fine in Bitcoin. (Unsplash)
Fraudster impersonates Victoria police officer, steals $1,700 in Bitcoin

Phone call showed up as VicPD’s non-emergency line

The Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
Tsartlip First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA revealed COVID-19 outbreak

Chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA Adam Olsen apologizes

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

Most Read