Glossary

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Cardiologist
A physician who specializes in disorders of the heart and blood vessels. Some children with FASD may have congenital heart defects that require referral to a cardiologist.

Central nervous system
The brain and spinal cord. Both are significantly affected by FASD. For example, at birth, a child with FASD may have a smaller cranial size than other babies.

Central nervous system developmental abnormalities
Any developmental delay or arrest of normal growth in the brain and/or spinal cord. In children with FASD, these abnormalities include decreased cranial size at birth, structural brain abnormalities, impaired fine motor skills, and cognitive problems.

Cerebellar hypoplasia
Under-development of the cerebellum. This is common in FASD.

Cerebral cortex
The thin, convoluted surface layer of gray matter of the brain’s two hemispheres. The cortex is primarily neurons arranged in five layers. Fetal alcohol damage to an area called the prefrontal cortex causes many problems with executive functioning (the ability to plan, moderate correct social behavior, and express one's personality). See also Executive Functioning.

Cerebellum
The cerebellum constantly receives input and integrates it for motor output. This lets your muscles know how, where, and when to move. It also tells you where your body is in space (proprioception). The cerebellum plays additional roles in cognitive functions, including the processing of language, music, and sensory input. The cerebellum is highly susceptible to damage from fetal alcohol exposure. Such damage causes widespread disorders, including problems with motor learning, posture, balance, equilibrium, muscle weakness, and the eyes’ abilities to “track” smoothly. To see a picture of the parts of the brain that are most susceptible to prenatal alcohol damage, click here.

Circadian rhythm
Predictable changes over a 24-hour period, such as one’s sleep cycle, or highs and lows of hormone secretion. Circadian rhythms in FASD children may be “off,” especially with sleep cycles.

Cleft palate
A type of birth defect, a “cleft” being a separation in a body’s natural structure. A cleft palate is a separation in the roof of the mouth, seen as a gap from the mouth to the nasal cavities. It can be treated successfully with surgery shortly after birth.

Cognition
Thinking skills that involve processing information and applying knowledge. Examples are language use, calculation, perception, memory, awareness, reasoning, judgment, learning, intellect, social skills, and imagination.

Cognitive abnormalities
May include any combination of the following: learning disabilities; poor impulse control; problems in social perception, abstraction, and math skills; deficits in memory, attention, and/or judgment.

Cognitive development
A sequential process of acquiring the ability to learn, reason, and analyze. The process begins in infancy and progresses as the individual matures. The brain damage of FASD causes arrested or impaired cognitive development.

Comorbid
A disease or disorder that exists at the same time as another. For example, ADHD is often a comorbid disorder seen with FASD. The comorbid condition worsens or impacts the primary disease.

Conduct disorder
A pattern of repetitive behavior where social norms or the rights of others are violated.

Corpus callosum
Connects the brain’s two cerebral hemispheres. The corpus callosum contains a very high concentration of nerve fibers and is highly susceptible to damage from alcohol exposure. A child with FASD has a smaller-than-normal corpus callosum—or it may be partially or completely absent. This is one reason why children with FASD are very literal. Information exchange between both sides of the brain is required for understanding the context of jokes, idioms, or how to “read” body language. To see a picture of the parts of the brain that are susceptible to prenatal alcohol damage, click here.

Craniofacial plastic surgeon
A plastic surgeon who specializes in correcting congenital or acquired deformities or problems of the head and face. This can include surgery on the face, jaws, teeth, and skull. Craniofacial surgeons do not do surgery on the brain or the eyes.

CT scan
Computed tomography (CT), originally known as computed axial tomography (CAT scan), is a medical imaging method that produces a three-dimensional image of an object. This is done by having an x-ray camera take many pictures as it rotates around an axis (for example, from one side of your head to another). The images are compiled to produce 3D views of internal body structures, such as the brain.

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