In October 2019, NIAAA held a meeting of international experts to identify essential elements for developing a single research classification system for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Currently, researchers around the world use a variety of classification systems to categorize individuals who are affected by prenatal alcohol exposure. The populations studied by researchers also vary greatly (e.g., clinical vs. research populations). This combination can make comparing research findings difficult and lead to uncertainty in the scientific literature.
The meeting was organized around three features of FASD: neurobehavioral impairment, dysmorphology (changes in physical features), and alcohol exposure. Deliberations of the expert panel helped to sharpen areas of consensus and narrow areas of discrepancy across current research classification systems. The panel also discussed possible framework options for a single, overarching research classification system for FASD. A consensus emerged that any such framework should fully capture the dimensionality of each of the contributing elements – physical, dysmorphology, neurobehavior, and prenatal alcohol exposure – and be adaptable across the lifespan.
Moving forward, meeting participants will test classification elements, thresholds, and frameworks in their own research databases. This process is currently underway, and the results will help experts reach consensus on a single, overarching research classification system whose adoption will harmonize international research efforts. The group plans to inform the research community of their efforts through presentations at upcoming scientific meetings.
Read article at NIAAA Spectrum: Advances in Research on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
More to read: Consensus Meeting on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Research Classification and (at the same page) Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.