White versus gray matter function as seen on neuropsychological testing following bone marrow transplant for acute leukemia in childhood
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Current theory suggests that neurocognitive late effects of treatments for childhood cancer such as difficulties with attention, processing speed and visual-motor ability are the result of white matter damage. Neuroimaging studies have produced a variety of white matter findings. However, although white matter is thought to be differentially affected, previous studies have not demonstrated a discrepancy between white and gray matter function. The present study included 36 children treated for childhood leukemia with hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HCT). Their performance on neurocognitive measures traditionally thought to measure white matter was compared to performance on measures thought to measure gray matter function. Composite white and gray matter standard scores were created based on neuropsychological measures that individuals with known white or gray matter damage perform poorly. As predicted, composite white matter scores (mean = 98.1) were significantly lower (t = 2.26, p = 0.03) than composite gray matter scores (mean = 102.5). Additionally, as gray matter performance increased, the difference between gray and white matter scores increased (R = 0.353, p = 0.035). Overall, the results of this study support the current theory that white matter damage is responsible for the more subtle neurocognitive late effects resulting from treatment for childhood leukemia.
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