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

Just Posted

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes following provincial reopening announcement

Recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

HMCS Corner Brook returned to Victoria’s waters for the first time since 2015 on June 10. (Courtesy of the Royal Canadian Navy)
WATCH: Navy surveillance submarine returning to Victoria waters

HMCS Corner Brook one of first submarines to receive new communications systems

A new multi-family residential project at the corner of Hillside Avenue and Cook Street will feature nine below market-priced units aimed at middle-income, first-time homebuyers, through a partnership between BC Housing and the developer. (Courtesy City of Victoria)
Middle-income first time homebuyers gain access to nine homes in Victoria

BC Housing partners with development community to create affordable purchases

The District of Saanich has pinpointed funding requests to Oak Bay and Victoria to help offset the purchase price of the Kings Park greenspace and keep the property intact. (Courtesy District of Saanich)
Saanich requests funding help from neighbours to preserve Kings Road green space

District hopes Victoria and Oak Bay will join them in protecting urban green space

Thriving Toots Wilderness School is trying to buy a 98-acre plot of undeveloped land from the Boys and Girls’ Club of Greater Victoria in Metchosin. (Contributed/Thriving Roots)
Hopeful buyers of Boys and Girls’ Club land in Metchosin would keep it wild

Nature-based school, partners trying to secure financing to buy 98-acre property: school director

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials watching U.K.’s Delta variant struggles, ‘may need to slow’ restart plan

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Harvesting hay in the Fraser Valley. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
COVID-19: B.C. waives farm income requirement for a second year

Property owners don’t need minimum income for 2022 taxes

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

Most Read