Iron deficiency in infancy is associated with altered neural correlates of recognition memory at 10 years

J Pediatr. 2012 Jun;160(6):1027-33. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2011.12.011. Epub 2012 Jan 11.


Objective: To determine the long-term effects of iron deficiency on the neural correlates of recognition memory.

Study design: Non-anemic control participants (n=93) and 116 otherwise healthy formerly iron-deficient anemic Chilean children were selected from a larger longitudinal study. Participants were identified at 6, 12, or 18 months as iron-deficient anemic or non-anemic and subsequently received oral iron treatment. This follow-up was conducted when participants were 10 years old. Behavioral measures and event-related potentials from 28 scalp electrodes were measured during an new/old word recognition memory task.

Results: The new/old effect of the FN400 amplitude, in which new words are associated with greater amplitude than old words, was present within the control group only. The control group also showed faster FN400 latency than the formerly iron-deficient anemic group and larger mean amplitude for the P300 component.

Conclusions: Although overall behavioral accuracy is comparable in groups, the results show that group differences in cognitive function have not been resolved 10 years after iron treatment. Long-lasting changes in myelination and energy metabolism, perhaps especially in the hippocampus, may account for these long-term effects on an important aspect of human cognitive development.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / complications*
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / drug therapy
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / psychology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Iron, Dietary / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Memory Disorders / psychology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Time Factors


  • Iron, Dietary