Visual-Spatial Abilities Relate to Mathematics Achievement in Children With Heavy Prenatal Alcohol Exposure

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The current study examined the relationship between mathematics and attention, working memory, and visual memory in children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure and controls.


Subjects were 56 children (29 AE, 27 CON) who were administered measures of global mathematics achievement (WRAT-3 Arithmetic & WISC–III Written Arithmetic), attention, (WISC–III Digit Span forward and Spatial Span forward), working memory (WISC–III Digit Span backward and Spatial Span backward), and visual memory (CANTAB Spatial Recognition Memory and Pattern Recognition Memory). The contribution of cognitive domains to mathematics achievement was analyzed using linear regression techniques. Attention, working memory, and visual memory data were entered together on Step 1 followed by group on Step 2, and the interaction terms on Step 3.


Model 1 accounted for a significant amount of variance in both mathematics achievement measures; however, model fit improved with the addition of group on Step 2. Significant predictors of mathematics achievement were Spatial Span forward and backward and Spatial Recognition Memory.


These findings suggest that deficits in spatial processing may be related to math impairments seen in FASD. In addition, prenatal alcohol exposure was associated with deficits in mathematics achievement, above and beyond the contribution of general cognitive abilities.

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