Developmental amnesia in the premature infant

Arch Pediatr. 2010 Feb;17(2):154-6. Epub 2009 Dec 16.

Developmental amnesia in the premature infant

Mouron V, Hays S, Gonzalez-Monge S.

Service de néonatologie, hôpital de la Croix-Rousse, hospices civils de Lyon, 69317 Lyon cedex 04, France.


All types of memory disorders have been observed in children, although these reports are rare. Developmental amnesia selectively involves episodic daily life memory while semantic learning is respected and general intelligence is not affected. Daily life is severely disturbed by this cognitive disorder usually occurring after hypoxic ischemic injury with bilateral hippocampal atrophy on MRI. Memory disorders are underdiagnosed in at-risk patients and rarely reported. We report on a former small-for-gestational-age preterm infant with no obvious hypoxic event during perinatal life. The follow-up was normal until elementary school. He had to spend 2 years in 1st grade and exhibited some behavioral troubles. At the age of 9, he was suspected of suffering from dyspraxia and was referred to a pediatrics rehabilitation center. IQ and neuropsychological tests were administered and showed selective autobiographical memory impairment defining developmental amnesia. Despite a typical clinical presentation, brain MRI was normal, including the hippocampal area. This observation underlines the need for a prolonged follow-up until school age to assess the outcome of preterm infants. Otherwise, the evaluation will be limited to motor impairment. Particular attention should be paid to memory during the follow-up to avoid misdiagnoses and to plan and adapt these children’s educational strategies.

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