Secondary abnormalities of neurotransmitters in infants with neurological disorders

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2007 Oct;49(10):740-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2007.00740.x.


Neurotransmitters are essential in young children for differentiation and neuronal growth of the developing nervous system. We aimed to identify possible factors related to secondary neurotransmitter abnormalities in pediatric patients with neurological disorders. We analyzed cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and biogenic amine metabolites in 56 infants (33 males, 23 females; mean age 5.8mo [SD 4.1mo] range 1d-1y) with neurological disorders whose aetiology was initially unknown. Patients were classified into three clinical phenotypes: epileptic encephalopathy, severe motor impairment, and non-specific manifestations. All patients showed normal results for screening of inborn errors of metabolism. We report clinical, neuroimaging, and follow-up data. Among the patients studied, 10 had low homovanillic acid (HVA) levels and in four patients, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) was also reduced. Patients with neonatal onset had significantly lower levels of HVA than a comparison group. HVA deficiency was also associated with severe motor impairment and the final diagnosis related to neurodegenerative disorders. 5-HIAA values tended to be decreased in patients with brain cortical atrophy. The possibility of treating patients with L-Dopa and 5-hydroxytryptophan, in order to improve their neurological function and maturation, may be considered.

MeSH terms

  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy* / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Epilepsy* / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy* / etiology
  • Female
  • Homovanillic Acid / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Motor Skills Disorders* / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Motor Skills Disorders* / etiology
  • Motor Skills Disorders* / physiopathology
  • Nervous System Diseases* / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Nervous System Diseases* / complications
  • Nervous System Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Phenotype
  • Pterins / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Pterins
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid
  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan
  • Homovanillic Acid