Dr. Dora Papara Nicholson, 79, a neurologist and psychatrist who did research on the effects of alcohol on fetal development in the course of a career in which she also worked for the Veterans Administration and the Maryland and D.C. health departments, died of heart and respiratory ailments April 30 at her home in Brinklow, Md.

Dr. Nicholson was a specialist in child growth and development, congenital defects and mental retardation and related matters. She was the author of numerous papers in this field, which included her findings on alcohol and pregnancy.

She did her work on that subject at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a resident fellow in clinical neurology from 1949 to 1954, at the George Washington University medical school, where she was a research fellow and assistant professor from 1954 to 1958, and at the National Institutes of Health in the early 1960s.

Dr. Nicholson was born in Greece and received a medical degree from the University of Athens. She came to this country in 1949 and went to the University of Pennsylvania.

She moved to the Washington area in 1954. After her work at GWU, she was director of research at the Rosewood State Hospital in Owings Mills, Md., and an assistant professor at the University of Maryland from 1958 to 1961.

From 1961 to 1963, she lived in Greece and then returned here. From 1965 to 1971, she was the chief intake psychiatrist at the Veterans Administration Hospital at Perry Point, Md. From 1971 until she retired in 1983, she was chief psychiatrist for youth services in the community health section of the D.C. health department.

Dr. Nicholson maintained a private practice in psychiatry in Washington from 1969 to 1983.

Her husband, Sotorios Nicholson, died in 1959. A daughter, Ethel Dallas of Chicago, died in February.

Survivors include one daughter, Ary Smith of Brinklow, and three granchildren.