Friday, July 3, 2009

Neuropsychological assessment of attention in children with spina bifida.

Vinck A, Mullaart R, Rotteveel J, Maassen B. (2009) Neuropsychological assessment of attention in children with spina bifida. Cerebrospinal Fluid Research. 2009 May 28;6:6.

Department of Medical Psychology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, PO Box 9101, 6500 HB Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Children with the severe form of spina bifida (SBM: spina bifida with myelomeningocele with accompanying hydrocephalus) may manifest attention deficits, and have a similar psychological profile to children with hydrocephalus due to other etiologies. It is unclear to what extent tests to assess attention in SBM are confounded by the accompanying cognitive or visual-motor impairments. The aim of this study was to analyse attention functions by administering two different types of attention tests, one with high and the other with low cognitive and motor requirements. This enabled the possible interaction between attention and cognitive and motor impairment to be assessed.

METHODS: The study group comprised 31 children with SBM with shunted hydrocephalus. Twenty children with SB-only formed a closely matched comparison group. Of these, 19 children with SBM and 18 with SB had a full-scale IQ (FSIQ) higher than 70. All had undergone spinal surgery and all children with SBM had been shunted within the first months of life. Between 6 and 15 years of age, the children were assessed on focused and sustained attention, encoding, and distractibility/impulsivity, using both traditional tests and computerized attention tests.

RESULTS: Compared to the SB group, attention scores of children with SBM were lower on the traditional tests, but when interfering cognitive and visual-motor requirements were eliminated using the computerised tasks, most differences disappeared. Furthermore, in contrast to traditional attention tasks, computerized tests showed no significant correlations with IQ-scores and visual-motor skills.

CONCLUSION: Assessment of attention functions in children with SBM by traditional tests may be misleading, because this paediatric population with complex cerebral malformations has difficulty with the cognitive and visual-motor requirements. To control for these interactions, the use of both traditional and computerized attention tests is recommended.

PMID: 19476646

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