Objective Many preterm infants show early neuropsychological and cognitive deficits generally associated with later learning disorders. Nevertheless, some research has not found significant learning disorders and a general recovery of preterm deficits is described. We investigated learning abilities in primary school in preterm and full-term peers considering cognitive and neuropsychological profile both at 4 and 8 years.
Methods We tested 21 healthy preterms (born <33 week) and 13 full-term controls on reading, writing and math abilities (Cornoldi 1998, 2002; Sartori 1995) during the last three years of primary school (mean age: 8.9). Moreover we analysed at a mean age of 8.9 and at 4.4 years their cognitive (respectively with WISC-III and Griffiths) and neuropsychological profile.
Results No significant differences were found in specific learning tests. ANOVA analysis at 8.9 years showed a difference in mean IQ scores (p = 0.001, difference: 14.6 points) and in visual-motor skills (VMI: p = 0.007, difference: 12 points). The same infants at 4.4 years showed differences in Griffiths’ GQ score (p = 0.001, difference: 10 points), visual-motor skills (VMI: p = 0.001) and verbal and visual-spatial short-term memory (Digit: p = 0.005; Corsi: p = 0.011). IQ score at 8.9 years correlated with GQ score at 4.4 years (rho = 0.70, p<0.001).
Conclusions Healthy preterms (<33 weeks) do not show significant differences in learning abilities during primary school. At 8.9 years, they show cognitive and neuropsychological profiles within normal range and seem to recover from specific early neuropsychological deficits. However, they still present significant differences in cognitive profile and visual-motor skills in comparison with their full-term peers.