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Iron Deficiency in Infants Affects Attention and Memory

Developmental delay observed compared with iron-sufficient infants

THURSDAY, Aug. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Infants who are iron-deficient have a developmental delay in attention and memory compared with iron-sufficient infants, according to a report in the August issue of Pediatrics.

Matthew J. Burden, Ph.D., from Wayne State University in Detroit, and colleagues collected data on event-free potentials, a non-invasive means to measure changes in the brain's electrical activity, from 15 infants with iron-deficiency anemia and 19 iron-sufficient infants at 9 months and/or 12 months of age. The data was collected during a test where the infant was asked to distinguish their mother's face from a stranger's face.

The researchers found that both groups at both ages displayed a "midlatency negative component associated with attention and a late-occurring positive slow wave associated with memory updating." At 9 months of age, the iron-sufficient group showed greater attention to the mother and a greater updating of memory for the stranger. In contrast, this response was not observed in the iron-deficient group until 12 months.

"These data suggest that iron-deficiency anemia adversely affects the allocation of neurophysiologic resources to attention and recognition memory during the processing of information about familiar and unfamiliar stimuli," Burden and colleagues conclude. "This delay in cognitive development may reflect alterations in efficiency of central nervous system functions that seem related to early iron deficiency."

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