Men With DMD Have Cognitive and Memory Deficits, Study Shows

Men With DMD Have Cognitive and Memory Deficits, Study Shows

Adults with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) may have less ability to sequentially process auditory and visual information, according to a new study.

The study, “Profile of cognitive function in adults with Duchenne muscular dystrophy,” appeared in the journal Brain & Development.

Most studies analyzing cognitive function in DMD focus on children or adolescents, leaving a gap of knowledge when it comes to such function in DMD adult patients. In this case, researchers enrolled 15 DMD patients (mean age 30.4 years old) to investigate the profile of cognitive functioning in men with this disease.

Patients were assessed using 24 subscales from the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale III (WAIS-III, the most widely used IQ test), the Clinical Assessment for Attention (CAT, which assesses attention deficits and hyperactivity) and the Wechsler Memory Scale Revised (WMS-R, which assess cognitive function in people with suspected memory deficits and learning difficulties).

Results showed that several cognitive and memory parameters were significantly deficient in adults with DMD compared to the general population, especially the ability to sequentially process visual and auditory cues.

The study has several limitations, including the small number of patients and the lack of relationship between their genetic mutations  and the results they showed in the assessment of cognitive function.

“Although prognosis of DMD patients has been dramatically improved over the past few decades, it is still an important matter to improve their quality of life,” researchers wrote. “Cognitive problems of DMD patients are discussed in association and/or comparison with ADHD, autistic spectrum disorders, and obsessive–compulsive disorders, particularly in terms of their poor facial recognition, which might have a negative influence on their [quality of life]. A better evaluation of cognitive deficits in DMD patients could improve their relationship with care staff, thereby contributing to better care for them and improving their [quality of life].”

DMD occurs in one of every 3,500 live male births (about 20,000 new cases each year worldwide). The incurable disease causes progressive loss of strength and is caused by a mutation in the gene that encodes for dystrophin. Because dystrophin is absent, the muscle cells are easily damaged. The progressive muscle weakness leads to serious medical problems, particularly heart and lung issues.

Young men with Duchenne typically live into their late 20s, though survival into the early 30s is becoming more common, with some cases of DMD men living into their 40s and 50s, according to advocacy groups.

2 comments

  1. I find the study troubling because it does not explain the cognitive ability of these adults when they were younger. It does not explain if the study results are showing a decline in cognitive abilities as the disease progresses or if perhaps these adult candidates already had deficits in their younger years. I have two sons with DMD ages 21 and 20. They have always both been in the above average IQ range from the time they were tested in elementary school. One of my sons was was in honours classes and graduated from high school while having to do work through a Dynavox communication system due to the progression of his disease. He has been accepted to college and I just wondered if he could notice more deficient cognitive skills over time. My older son is also very intelligent and has no issues now with his cognitive abilities.

    • Catherine Collins says:

      I always thought it was not a progressive thing that it was a lack of Dystrophin in the brain
      thing. From the End Duchenne website:
      If given repeated exposure, boys with Duchenne are generally able to memorize the same amount of new information as other children. However, the amount of information that they are able to take in at any one time may be less than other children. This type of memory is called short-term memory, or working memory. Boys who have problems in this area may appear forgetful, have difficulty following directions, or seem to not listen. These memory weaknesses are particularly related to verbal information, but some boys also have difficulty with visual information. Even boys with Duchenne who have a high IQ and strong verbal skills can have this pattern of memory weaknesses.

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