Arnold-Chiari-II malformation and cognitive functioning in spina bifida

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2006 Sep;77(9):1083-6. doi: 10.1136/jnnp.2005.075887. Epub 2006 May 11.


Spina bifida is a multifaceted neurological condition with complex neuropsychological sequelae. The cognitive outcome in spina bifida has frequently been attributed to the severity of the hydrocephalus. However, because of complex neuropathology, the influence of hydrocephalus alone does not sufficiently explain the deficits in the cognitive profile in spina bifida. To date, little is known of the role of Arnold-Chiari-II malformation (ACM) in the cognitive profile of these patients. Aim of the current study is to delineate the specific contribution of the ACM in spina bifida by comparing children with ACM and those without ACM. 46 children between 6 and 15 years of age underwent a neuropsychological assessment covering intelligence and a wide range of cognitive functions, such as visuo-motor processing, attention, memory, word fluency and speed of information processing. Comparisons were made between patients with ACM (ACM+) and those without ACM (ACM-); all children with ACM+ also had hydrocephalus. Confounding effects of global cognitive impairment were excluded, such that groups were matched on verbal IQ. Because of complex neuropathology, which is inherent to spina bifida, the method applied was based on a comparison of cognitive profiles of the study group with profiles of patients with cerebellar damage and hydrocephalus found in the literature. Impaired visual analysis and synthesis, verbal memory, and verbal fluency, even after correction for global cognitive impairment, were observed in children with ACM. The hypothesis that in addition to impairment in visual analysis and synthesis, which are related to both hydrocephalus and ACM, specific deficiencies in verbal memory and fluency may be attributed to ACM is supported.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arnold-Chiari Malformation / complications*
  • Arnold-Chiari Malformation / etiology*
  • Child
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocephalus / complications
  • Hydrocephalus / etiology
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / etiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Spinal Dysraphism / complications*
  • Visual Perception