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Revista Brasileira de Saúde Materno Infantil

Print version ISSN 1519-3829On-line version ISSN 1806-9304


MIRANDA, Mônica C. et al. Neuropsychology and malnutrition: a study with 7 to 10 years-old children in a poor community. Rev. Bras. Saude Mater. Infant. [online]. 2007, vol.7, n.1, pp.45-54. ISSN 1519-3829.

OBJECTIVES: to compare the neuropsychological profile of eutrophic, stunted and chronically malnourished children, and to analyse the role of socio-economic factors on the cognitive development. METHODS: seven to 10 year-old girls and boys from a poor community in São Paulo were evaluated: 27 eutrophyc, 31 stunted and 15 chronically malnourished. Neuropsychological evaluation involved cognitive functions not fully assessed in this population, such as working, declarative and non-declarative memories, attention and executive functions. Socio-economic indicators, maternal mental health and the children's behaviour at school were also evaluated. RESULTS: malnourished children had a lower score on the vocabulary test than the eutrophic and stunted groups (ps<0.05), performed worse in the visuospatial working memory task (p = 0.01), were more anxious than the stunted (p = 0.006), and despite having lower average birth weight than eutrophic children (p = 0.01), only two children as had prenatal malnutrition. Stunted children exhibited no impairment. No differences in socio-economic variables were found among groups. CONCLUSIONS: chronic malnutrition was associated to impairment of expressive speech, visual-spatial short-term memory and increased anxiety. No effects were observed in intellectual abilities, executive functions, verbal working memory, long-term memory, nor in visuoconstructive function. Preservation of the latter cognitive functions can be attributed to adequate environmental conditions and the lack of overall prenatal malnutrition.

Keywords : Malnutrition; Neuropsychological tests; Neuropsychology.

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