Men With DMD Have Cognitive and Memory Deficits, Study Shows

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by Joana Fernandes |

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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.

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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.