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Childhood Multiple Sclerosis Leads To Memory Problems

Armen Hareyan's picture

Children with multiple sclerosis (MS) also suffer from thinking skill problems, cognitive problems and have low IQ scores.

A study by researchers from University of Florence examined 63 MS and 57 children under age of 18. The disease occurred before age of 10 in patients. Children were given IQ and neuropsychological tests. Their parents were asked if children have problem at school with learning and remembering things. Parents reported memory problems for all multiple sclerosis patients.

IQ scores for MS patients were significantly low compared to those without the disease. There were 5 children with IQ lower than 70, but there were no children with similar IQs in the healthy group. 15 children with MS versus 2 healthy children had IQ from 70 to 89. About half of all MS children failed to pass neuropsychological tests because of problems with 'verbal and visuospatial memory, complex attention, and executive functions'.

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Multiple sclerosis affects central nervous system by destroying myelin, which are coating nerve cells. Nerve cells with destroyed myelin have their function of sending signals from brain to parts of body weakened. The disease is mostly described by patients as brain slowness.

MS is more dangerous for children of younger ages. When the brain of a MS child receives information, it is slow in processing it, and when the received information is not properly processed, children simply forget the information. Children affected by the disease have difficulties in school, because the information is given faster than their brains can process it. This is why they have lower IQ scores and they generally report underachievement.

Multiple sclerosis has different symptoms depending on how exactly the disease affects nerve cells. The symptoms vary from severe or mild impairment to complete disability. Symptoms can even include fever and breathing difficulties, so the disease is unpredictable and difficult to diagnose, especially in children.

Multiple sclerosis currently affects from 250000 to 350000 Americans, about 5% of cases occur among children under 18, and the most difficult diagnosis is for children under 10. The study urges the need of more attention to children with MS and of new ways for treating them. Schools need to have programs designed for MS children, for example children with weakened visual memory will be better taught based on verbal memory.