AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 29, Number 2, 2020


Sick Kids Live Longer, but Brain Function May Suffer

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Researchers across disciplines are teaming up to improve the odds

Survival rates continue to rise for children living with once-fatal chronic pediatric health conditions. But their survival comes at a cost: many experience long-term neurocognitive deficits. In a first-of-its-kind review of meta-analytic results across conditions, Vanderbilt researchers documented how the brain is affected by leukemia, brain tumors, sickle cell disease, congenital heart disease, type 1 diabetes and traumatic brain injury (TBI) in an effort to identify directions for future research and clinical care. “What we have is a hidden epidemic,” said lead investigator Bruce Compas, Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Psychology and Human Development at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College. “For the four million children with these conditions, the functioning of the prefrontal cortex is disrupted significantly, affecting learning, memory and decision-making. We found that an alarming number are performing academically below 80 percent of their peers and have lost three to 12 IQ points.”

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