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31 October 2018 /

Spotlight on neurodevelopmental disorder data that could help patients in future

Today, the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society (JINS) publishes a special issue that turns the spotlight on innovative developments in the field of neurodevelopmental disorders.
These disorders affecting the development of the central nervous system are highly prevalent around the globe. Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States show that around one in six children aged from 3 to 17 years old have one or more neurodevelopmental disabilities. And the rates are increasing – the editors of this new collection of papers suggest that figures from CDC reports may underestimate the actual prevalence of these disorders worldwide.
Over the past 25 years, medical advances have improved the life course of several genetic, medical, and neurodevelopmental conditions. Due to higher survival rates and lifespans extending into adulthood, increased attention has been given to the development of self-management and independence skills and the transition into older adolescence and young adulthood, which is of significant interest to neuropsychologists.
This special issue of JINS focuses on neurodevelopmental disorders with known medical, environmental or genetic causes, such as injury, infection or developmental abnormalities. These types of disorders have typically received less attention than neurodevelopmental disorders defined on the basis of behavior, such as ADHD, learning disabilities or autism.
The collection – edited by eminent authors from the Kennedy Krieger Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and the University of Michigan – brings together 11 papers presenting innovative and novel data related to the neuropsychology of specific neurodevelopmental disorders (including identification of biomarkers). The editors present seven empirical studies, emphasizing disorders (both rare and more common) with genetic and associated medical causes, with samples ranging in age from early childhood through to young adult. Disorders include Down Syndrome, sickle cell disease and muscular dystrophy as well as rare genetic conditions such as Williams syndrome.
The collection concludes with two critical reviews and two ground-breaking case study reports that illustrate the value of zooming in on individual cases when studying rare conditions such as Pitt-Hopkins syndrome (PHS). Nearly all of the few prior published reports on PHS highlight severe intellectual and functional deficits and minimal language use. This case report instead presents findings from an individual who, despite many cognitive limitations, showed some relatively spared language function.
In the final paper, authors from York University in Toronto report on an intervention using different spacing methods to improve word list learning in a young adult with congenital amnesia – with surprising results.
The timing of this special issue follows on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the implementation of US PL-88-164 (“Mental Retardation Facilities Construction Act”). This Act provided financial support in 1967 for the development of 18 University Affiliated Programs (emphasizing treatment for neurodevelopmental disorders), and 12 Research Centers dedicated to research of neurodevelopmental disorders. All of these have contributed to the scientific innovations that have improved the lives of individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders and their families.
Neuropsychological studies of neurodevelopmental disorders are typically conducted from a developmental perspective with an increasingly interdisciplinary approach that frequently draws upon and informs a refined understanding of biological traits and biomarkers. The editors of this special issue hope that these research approaches will inform more effective treatment and optimal developmental outcomes for patients in future.
“In the past few decades there has been a significant increase in the prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders,” said co-editor E. Mark Mahone. “This increase is likely due to a combination or reporting and risk factors, and the fact that more children with genetic and congenital disorders are surviving into adulthood. Neurodevelopmental disorders show considerable heterogeneity – even within conditions with known etiology. As such, the neuropsychological perspective in understanding the phenotypes of these conditions is particularly relevant.”
Download the latest issue of JINS here.

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