Trainee Angelina Paolozza receives prestigious merit award for contributions to FASD research

July 8, 2014

In her doctoral work, NeuroDevNet trainee Angelina Paolozza has strengthened historically elusive connections between behavioural and cognitive deficits in FASD, and structural and functional brain injuries caused by prenatal alcohol exposure.

Her contributions to FASD research were celebrated by the FASD study group at the Research Society on Alcoholism meeting June 21-25, 2014, through the Kenneth Warren Merit Award, a highly prestigious recognition of graduate and postdoctoral contributions to advancing FASD research. "It was a real honour to be recognized as the Kenneth Warren award recipient," said Paolozza.

"It was also very rewarding to be acknowledged for my contributions to advancing FASD research so early in my career. I would really like to thank the FASD Study Group, and my supervisor, Dr. James Reynolds, for their support."

"Angelina joined my lab in September, 2010, just as we were starting a new, multi-site Canadian investigation of eye movement control, neurobehavioural phenotyping, neuroimaging and genetic analysis in FASD as part of NeuroDevNet," said Dr. Reynolds, who serves as president of the FASD study group.

"Over the past four years, Angelina has become a true leader within the research group and in the cross-Canada collaboration," added Dr. Reynolds. In the course of her work, she recruited and administered psychometric tests to more than 200 children aged 5-18 in Ottawa, Winnpeg, Edmonton, Cold Lake and Kingston.

Paolozza also performed a series of novel eye movement control experiments, and learned to operate neuroimaging scanner so she could run her own study participants. She also mastered manual and automated tractography to quantify the integrity of white matter tracts in the brains of children. "I should stress that Angelina had no background in imaging studies prior to starting this work," observed Dr. Reynolds.

The first author of five papers during her PhD work, Paolozza presented her latest study at the RSA meeting. "My research looked at eye movement control during a simple task that requires the child to look to a target that appears to the left or right of the screen. We looked at the motor control of the eyes and found that the FASD group showed accuracy deficits.

"We also found for the first time, that girls and boys with FASD exhibit distinct differences in the pattern of deficits in eye movement control," added Paolozza. "This result will enhance our understanding of the underlying brain injury in FASD, and he use of saccadic eye movements as a tool for assessing brain function in this population."