Cognitive characterization of children with Dravet syndrome: A neurodevelopmental perspective.
PURPOSE The aim of the study was to perform a detailed assessment of cognitive abilities and behaviour in a series of epileptic patients with Dravet syndrome (DS) in order to establish a possible cerebellar-like pattern. METHODS Nine children with DS without major behavioural disturbances and with cognitive abilities compatible with the assessment of specific cognitive skills (IQ>45) were enrolled in the study, in parallel with another group of nine epileptic patients (cryptogenic or symptomatic with minor brain injuries) consecutively admitted into the hospital matched for chronological age and IQ. All cases underwent neurological examination, long term EEG monitoring, neuroimaging and genetic analysis as well as a neuropsychological assessment including specific cognitive skills. RESULTS On neurological examination 8 of the 9 DS patients had cerebellar signs, which were mild in six and more severe in the other two cases. DS patients had a constant discrepancy between verbal and performance items scales (verbal better than visual-spatial) that was not found in the control group. As to specific cognitive competence, the DS patients differ from the control group in the pattern of cognitive defects involving four main areas of cognitive abilities (a) expressive language with relatively spared comprehension, (b) visual-spatial organization, (c) executive function defects, (d) behavioural disorders. CUNCLUSIONS The pattern of cognitive difficulties found in DS patients is consistent with what is reported in literature as cerebellar cognitive syndrome and may account for a possible cerebellar origin (at least as co-factor) of the cognitive decline observed in DS patients, as suggested by other clinical and experimental studies.