Assessing Cognitive Function in Neuromuscular Diseases: A Pilot Study in a Sample of Children and Adolescents

Central nervous system (CNS) involvement has been variously studied in pediatric neuromuscular disorders (NMDs). The primary goal of this study was to assess cognitive functioning in NMDs, and secondary aims were to investigate possible associations of cognitive impairment with motor impairment, neurodevelopmental delay, and genotype. This was a cross-sectional study of 43 pediatric patients, affected by six NMDs. Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) and glycogen storage disease type 2 (GSD2) patients had a delay on the Bayley-III scales. On Wechsler scales, DMD and DM1 patients showed lower FSIQ scores, with an intellectual disability (ID) in 27% and 50%, respectively. FSIQ was normal in Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD), GSD2, and hereditary motor sensory neuropathy (HMSN) patients, while higher individual scores were found in the spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) group. In the DM1 cohort, lower FSIQ correlated with worse motor performance (ρ = 0.84, < 0.05), and delayed speech acquisition was associated with ID ( = 0.048), with worse cognitive impairment in the congenital than in the infantile form ( = 0.04). This study provides further evidence of CNS in some NMDs and reinforces the need to include cognitive assessment in protocols of care of selected pediatric NMDs.