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Iron-deficiency linked to memory deficit

Children with iron-deficiency anaemia (IDA) are prone to develop memory deficits, which may persist later in life.

Iron-deficiency linked to memory deficit

Children with iron-deficiency anaemia (IDA) are prone to develop memory deficits, which may persist later in life.

To determine whether IDA in infancy is a risk factor for deficits in attention and memory development, researchers studied 15 American infants with IDA and 19 with normal levels of iron in their bodies. The participants were tested for iron levels at 9 and 12 months. Data regarding their haemoglobin level and age was collected and correlated with a recognition test of the infant's ability to tell apart the highly familiar mother's face from a stranger's face. These were studied by monitoring the brain activity by electroencephalogram (EEG) and electrooculogram (EOG) during the recognition test.

Compared with infants without IDA, it was found that those with IDA and those with low haemoglobin level had worse recognition memory. Infants with poor scores on the socio-emotional measures had stronger effects of IDA on these outcomes. 

Poorer object permanence and short-term memory encoding and/or retrieval was noted in infants with IDA at 9 months. These cognitive effects were attributable, in part, to IDA-related deficits in socio-emotional function. Children with poor socio-emotional performance seem to be more vulnerable to the effects of IDA on cognitive function.

The study shows that deficits in cognitive processing (attention and memory) with IDA during an important development period during infancy may have implications for intellectual function in childhood.
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