, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 549-566

Neuropsychological outcome of subjects participating in the PKU Adult Collaborative Study: A preliminary review

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Abstract

Summary: Adult subjects with classical phenylketonuria (PKU) who were diagnosed and treated neonatally participated in this long-term follow-up study. Twenty-four subjects received neuropsychological (NP) assessment and a subset received magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to identify: (1) pattern of cognitive dysfunction; (2) effect of high blood phenylalanine (Phe) level at time of cognitive testing; and (3) treatment variables that may be associated with cognitive difficulties in adulthood. All subjects had average IQ except one subject in the borderline range. Diet was initiated by the 15th day of life. All subjects except one were on diet until age 6 years (mean years of treatment = 15). Blood Phe levels at cognitive testing ranged from 157 to 1713 µmol/L (mean = 1038); 11 subjects had levels >1000 µmol/L and 13 subjects had levels >;1000 µmol/L. Results suggest that adults with early-treated PKU demonstrate specific cognitive deficits, a number of which are associated with the frontal and temporal area of the brain. Deficits were noted in several domains including executive functioning, attention, verbal memory, expressive naming and verbal fluency. Self-report measures of depression and anxiety were generally in the normal/mild range. The group with a Phe level >;1000 µmol/L scored lower than the group with Phe level <1000 µmol/L on measures of focused attention, verbal fluency, reaction time, verbal recognition memory, visual memory and naming. Tests of cognitive functioning were often correlated with measures of treatment during childhood rather than with Phe level at the time of cognitive testing. Subjects with abnormal MRI scored significantly lower on two cognitive tests (Trails A and CVLT Recognition Memory). We found no significant correlation between current brain Phe level obtained through MRS (n = 10) and neuropsychological functioning. Future longitudinal investigation with a larger sample size will assist in clarifying the aetiology of neuropsychological deficits and association with treatment history.