Sensory control of balance: A comparison of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders to children with typical development

Tracy L. Jirikowic, Sarah W. McCoy, Anat Lubetzky-Vilnai, Robert Price, Marcia A. Ciol, Deborah Kartin, Lin Ya Hsu, Beth Gendler, Susan J. Astley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: 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). Objectives: 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. Methods: 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. Results: 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. Conclusions: 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e212-e228
JournalJournal of Population Therapeutics and Clinical Pharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013


  • Balance
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
  • Postural control
  • Prenatal alcohol exposure
  • Sensory weighting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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