Does Early Age at Brain Insult Predict Worse Outcome? Neuropsychological Implications

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Objective Traditionally early brain insult (EBI) has been argued to have better outcome than later injury, consistent with the notion that the young brain is flexible and able to reorganize. This view was investigated by comparing neurobehavioral outcomes of children sustaining EBI at different developmental stages (gestation to late childhood). Methods One hundred and sixty four children who had sustained focal brain insult (confirmed by MRI) formed six groups, based on age at EBI, (a) Congenital; (b) Peri-natal; (c) Infancy; (d) Preschool; (e) Middle Childhood; (f) Late Childhood, and were compared on a range of standardized neurobehavioral measures. Groups were matched for lesion characteristics and demographics. Results Children sustaining EBI before age 2 recorded global deficits, while children with later EBI performed closer to average. Conclusion These results question the advantages of early brain plasticity, demonstrating poorer outcome from very early insults, and increasingly better function with lesions later in childhood.

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