Veronica Hinton, associate professor of clinical neuropsychology at Columbia University in New York, was awarded an MDA research grant totaling $397,596 over three years to study cognitive problems in children with dystrophinopathies, which include Duchenne (DMD) and Becker (BMD) muscular dystrophies.
"Children with dystrophinopathies are at risk for having delayed language development, poor academic achievement and limited social skills in addition to muscle weakness,” Hinton notes. “This cognitive and behavioral profile puts them at increased risk for poor quality of life, but the profile can be modified and improved with early detection and proper intervention.”
Hinton is working to better understand the specific nature of the cognitive problems that children with dystrophinopathies may experience — information that is vital to minimizing and ameliorating the learning and behavior challenges that many children and families experience.
With colleagues, Hinton is using neuropsychological tests to examine cognitive and behavioral performance in a diverse group of children. The children participate in tests that involve answering questions, solving picture riddles and doing computer-administered puzzle tasks. Parents and teachers complete rating forms about each child’s daily life behavior.
Hinton’s study is designed to do an in-depth assessment of executive function (the higher thought processes that include making or following complicated plans, solving complex problems, following a series of directions and making sound judgments) and verbal working memory skills, and provide information about how these skills affect “real life” outcomes in school, socialization and quality of life.
"Research in this area has been limited, yet effective in raising awareness and understanding about the cognitive and behavioral risks associated with a diagnosis of dystrophinopathy,” Hinton says. “With that knowledge has come much improved care for the individuals affected.”
Funding for this MDA grant began Aug. 1, 2012.