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Horm Res Paediatr. 2010;73(1):6-14. doi: 10.1159/000271911. Epub 2010 Jan 15.

Brain development, intelligence and cognitive outcome in children born small for gestational age.

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Department of Pediatrics, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) can lead to infants being born small for gestational age (SGA). SGA is associated with increased neonatal morbidity and mortality as well as short stature, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus type 2, dyslipidemia and end-stage renal disease in adulthood. In addition, SGA children have decreased levels of intelligence and cognition, although the effects are mostly subtle. The overall outcome of each child is the result of a complex interaction between intrauterine and extrauterine factors. Animal and human studies show structural alterations in the brains of individuals with IUGR/SGA. The presence of growth hormone (GH) receptors in the brain implies that the brain is also a target for GH. Exogenous GH theoretically has the ability to act on the brain. This is exemplified by the effects of GH on cognition in GH-deficient adults. In SGA children, data on the effect of exogenous GH on intelligence and cognition are scant and contradictory.

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