A research project underway in Whitehorse could lead to much earlier detection of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in people at risk of getting in trouble with the law.

Kaitlyn McLachlan, an assistant professor in the Clinical Psychology program at the University of Guelph, and the project's lead researcher, said earlier detection could help direct resources to people with FASD much sooner.

The testing includes using electroencephalography, or EEG, to record electrical activity in the brain and powerful frequency video recordings that measure eye movement and provides a window into the brain, she said.

"These technologies have been used with growing success in being able to identify children with FASD," said McLachlan.

Kaitlyn McLachlan

Kaitlyn McLachan from the University of Guelph is the lead researcher on the project. (McMaster University)

"And here, what we wanted to do was [take] clinical neuro-service out of the lab into the real world, particularly into the criminal justice system where it's previously been very difficult to access necessary resources."

McLachlan said it's always a surprise to her how many people with FASD — as many as 60 per cent — have contact with the criminal justice system at some point in their lifetime.

She hopes her team will finish testing up to 60 people by the end of December.

They will include subjects from three sets: people with FASD in the criminal justice system; people without FASD in the system; and people who have not been in the system, nor have FASD.

The goal is to develop "validated, fast, reliable and efficient screening technologies," said McLachlan, that allow for quick evaluations.

With files from Roch Shannon Fraser