Preterm Birth Linked to Impaired Memory

Deficits in executive function and memory persist into adolescence

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Adolescents who were born preterm have an increased risk of impaired executive function and memory, according to a study published online Feb. 7 in Pediatrics.

Thuy Mai Luu, M.D., from the Sainte-Justine University Health Center in Montreal, and colleagues analyzed data from 337 adolescents who were born with a birth weight of less than 1,250 g between 1989 and 1992. Executive function and memory was compared between these adolescents and 102 16-year-old controls born at term.

The investigators found that adolescents who were born preterm had deficits in executive functions, including verbal fluency, inhibition, cognitive flexibility, and planning/organization; and in working, verbal, and visuospatial memory. These differences persisted on most tests even after exclusion of preterm-born adolescents with neurosensory disabilities and an IQ of less than 70. Compared with controls, adolescents born preterm had an increased risk of problems connected to executive function, as measured by the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function, the Metacognition Index, and the Global Executive Composite, but not according to the Behavioral Regulation Index. For preterm-born teens, the factors more consistently associated with poor outcomes were severe brain injury on the neonatal ultrasound and less-educated mothers.

"The neuropsychological sequelae of preterm birth extend into adolescence and involve higher-level cognitive processes, such as executive function and memory. Even after correction for receptive vocabulary, relative deficits still remain," the authors write.

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