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Multiple Sclerosis Affects Children's Cognitive Skills
Date:5/12/2008

Low IQ more likely the younger a child is at diagnosis, study finds,,,,

MONDAY, May 12 (HealthDay News) -- Only about 5 percent of people with multiple sclerosis are diagnosed when they're children, but like adults with MS, the disease can affect cognitive function, causing memory and attention problems, and possibly low IQ scores.

And, the younger a child is at the time of diagnosis, the more likely he or she is to have a low IQ, according to new research published in the May 13 issue of the journal Neurology.

"In childhood cases, the impact of the disease on cognitive functioning may be more dramatic than that observed in adults," said study author Dr. Maria Pia Amato, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Florence, in Italy.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system. The disease leads to the destruction of myelin -- a protective coating found on nerve cells. Without their myelin coating, the nerve cells can't efficiently send signals between the brain and other parts of the body. Within the brain, this can slow or stop nerve impulses, according to Nicholas LaRocca, vice president of health care delivery and policy research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS). Additionally, he said, MS can cause a gap in nerve fibers, and, in some cases, can actually cause brain tissue to shrink.

"The overall organization of the brain is being impaired," he said.

LaRocca's colleague, Rosalind Kalb, vice president of the professional resource center at NMSS, said most people describe the effects of the disorder as feeling as if their brain "has slowed way down."

"What that means for a child in a school situation is that if the incoming information is coming in faster than that person can process it, they won't remember it later, because they didn't get to process it effectively to begin with. So, they don't learn what they need to le
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