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Can headache impair intellectual abilities in children? An observational study

Authors Esposito M, Pascotto A, Gallai B, Parisi L, Roccella M, Marotta R, Lavano SM, Gritti A, Mazzotta G, Carotenuto M

Published Date November 2012 Volume 2012:8 Pages 509—513

DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S36863

Received 10 August 2012, Accepted 25 September 2012, Published 1 November 2012

Maria Esposito,1 Antonio Pascotto,1 Beatrice Gallai,3 Lucia Parisi,2 Michele Roccella,2 Rosa Marotta,4 Serena Marianna Lavano,4 Antonella Gritti,5 Giovanni Mazzotta,6 Marco Carotenuto1

1Center for Childhood Headache, Clinic of Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry, Second University of Naples, Naples, 2Child Neuropsychiatry, Department of Psychology, University of Palermo, Palermo, 3Unit of Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry, University of Perugia, Perugia, 4Department of Psychiatry, “Magna Graecia” University of Catanzaro, Catanzaro, 5Suor Orsola Benincasa University, Napoli, 6Unit of Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry, Azienda Sanitaria Locale 4, Terni, Italy

Background: The purpose of this study was to assess the cognitive functioning of children affected by headache, pinpointing the differences in intelligence style between subjects affected by migraine without aura and subjects with tension-type headache.
Methods: The study population consisted of 147 children (mean age 10.82 ± 2.17 years) with headache, recruited from the Headache Center for Developmental Age, Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry Clinic, Second University of Naples. Cognitive profiling was performed using Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children Third Edition throughout the sample. According to the International Classification of Headache Disorders II criteria for pediatric age, subjects were divided into a migraine without aura group (n = 75; 43 boys, 32 girls) and a tension-type headache group (n = 72; 49 boys, 23 girls). The results were compared with the findings obtained from a sample of 137 healthy control subjects recruited from schools in the Campania region, matched for age and gender.
Results: No difference in full intelligence quotient was found between the groups, but the children with tension-type headache had a lower verbal intelligence quotient and a higher performance intelligence quotient than the healthy controls and children with migraine. Factor analysis data showed that the children with migraine seemed to have lower perceptual organization than the children affected by tension-type headache.
Conclusion: To our knowledge, studies on cognitive functioning in children affected by headache in the interictal phase are scarce, and our results suggest a new perspective in understanding of the neuropsychological aspects of young patients affected by headaches.

Keywords: childhood headache, intelligence quotient, Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children Third Edition, intelligence, migraine

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