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Cognitive Deficits in Childhood Tied to Later Mental Health Disorders

Authors say early cognitive interventions in childhood may lessen risk for subsequent symptoms

WEDNESDAY, April 21, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Specific cognitive deficits in childhood are distinctively associated with different mental health disorders, like borderline personality disorder, depression, and psychosis, in teens and young adults, according to a study published online April 7 in JAMA Network Open.

Isabel Morales-Muñoz, Ph.D., from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, and colleagues used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children in the United Kingdom (with a child born from delivery from April 1, 1991, to Dec. 31, 1992) to determine if cognitive deficits in childhood predate mental disorders in adolescence and young adulthood. The analysis included 5,315 individuals with psychopathological measures.

The researchers found associations between higher sustained attention at 8 years and a decreased risk for borderline personality disorder (BPD) symptoms at ages 11 to 12 years (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 0.964), better performance on inhibition at age 10 years and a decreased risk for psychotic experiences at ages 17 to 18 years (aOR, 0.938), higher sustained attention at age 8 years and a decreased risk for depressive symptoms at ages 17 to 18 years (aOR, 0.969), and better performance in working memory at age 10 years and a decreased risk for hypomania symptoms at ages 22 to 23 years (aOR, 0.694). All associations remained when controlling for potential psychopathological overlay, except for working memory and hypomania.

“These findings suggest that specific cognitive deficits should be considered as targetable endophenotypes in the prediction and intervention for specific mental disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, depression, and psychosis,” the authors write.

Two authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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