Intellectual abilities, language comprehension, speech, and motor function in children with spinal muscular atrophy type 1

Grazia Zappa, Antonella LoMauro, Giovanni Baranello, Emilia Cavallo, Priscilla Corti, Chiara Mastella, Maria Antonella Costantino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a chronic, neuromuscular disease characterized by degeneration of spinal cord motor neurons, resulting in progressive muscular atrophy and weakness. SMA1 is the most severe form characterized by significant bulbar, respiratory, and motor dysfunction. SMA1 prevents children from speaking a clearly understandable and fluent language, with their communication being mainly characterized by eye movements, guttural sounds, and anarthria (type 1a); severe dysarthria (type 1b); and nasal voice and dyslalia (type 1c). The aim of this study was to analyze for the first time cognitive functions, language comprehension, and speech in natural history SMA1 children according to age and subtypes, to develop cognitive and language benchmarks that provide outcomes for the clinical medication trials that are changing SMA1 course/trajectory. Methods: This is a retrospective study including 22 children with SMA1 (10 affected by subtype 1a-1b: AB and 12 by 1c: C) aged 3–11 years in clinical stable condition with a coded way to communicate “yes” and “no”. Data from the following assessments have been retrieved from patient charts: one-dimensional Raven test (RCPM), to evaluate cognitive development (IQ); ALS Severity Score (ALSSS) to evaluate speech disturbances; Brown Bellugy modified for Italian standards (TCGB) to evaluate language comprehension; and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Infant Test of Neuromuscular Disorders (CHOP-INTEND) to assess motor functioning. Results: SMA 1AB and 1C children were similar in age, with the former characterized by lower CHOP-INTEND scores compared to the latter. All 22 children had collaborated to RCPM and their median IQ was 120 with no difference (p = 0.945) between AB and C. Global median score of the speech domain of the ALSSS was 5; however, it was 2 in AB children, being significantly lower than C (6.5, p < 0.001). TCGB test had been completed by 13 children, with morphosyntactic comprehension being in the normal range (50). Although ALSSS did not correlate with both IQ and TCGB, it had a strong (p < 0.001) correlation with CHOP-INTEND described by an exponential rise to maximum. Conclusions: Although speech and motor function were severely compromised, children with SMA1 showed general intelligence and language comprehension in the normal range. Speech impairment was strictly related to global motor impairment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
JournalJournal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Children
  • Cognitive development
  • Language
  • SMA type 1
  • Speech
  • Spinal muscular atrophy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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