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Cognitive functioning of pediatric patients with brain tumor: an investigation of the role of gender

Abstract

Purpose

The female gender has been considered a risk factor for cognitive impairment in pediatric brain tumor survivors. However, it is still unknown which specific cognitive domains are at greater risk of impairment in females. The aim of this study was to explore differences between male and female children in distinct domains of cognitive functioning, in order to deepen knowledge on the topic.

Methods

The cognitive performance of 100 males and 71 females aged 6–16 years was assessed by Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children-Third Edition (WISC-III). Differences between males and females were tested not only on intellectual quotients, but also on WISC-III subtests, which allow the evaluation of different cognitive domains. Analyses were performed in the whole sample and dividing children based on the supratentorial vs. infratentorial location of the tumor.

Results

Gender was the only predictor of VIQ in the whole group and in children with supratentorial tumor. Female children with supratentorial tumor performed significantly worse than males in four out of six verbal subtests. However, even among children with infratentorial tumor, females performed worse than males on two verbal subtests.

Conclusions

Overall, findings of this study suggest that females may have more difficulties than males at manipulating verbal oral material. A possible explanation of these findings could be that females present a greater vulnerability to white matter damage due to the illness and post-adjuvant therapies, in line with reports of the literature on female children with lymphoblastic leukemia.

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Funding

This work was supported by Scientific Institute, IRCCS E. Medea, Bosisio Parini, Italy, Progetto di Ricerca 5x1000, #111.

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Correspondence to Claudia Corti.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

In our Scientific Institute, at the moment of the clinical evaluation of children, parents are proposed to sign an informed consent to allow data treatment for research. Informed consent was obtained from all parents of individual participants included in the study.

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Corti, C., Manfredi, V., Massimino, M. et al. Cognitive functioning of pediatric patients with brain tumor: an investigation of the role of gender. Childs Nerv Syst 34, 2415–2423 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00381-018-3982-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00381-018-3982-8

Keywords

  • Neuropsychological functioning
  • Sex
  • Pediatric oncology
  • Rehabilitation