Short straw


Children who are too short for their age may suffer reduced cognitive ability linked to differences in brain function as early as six months old, claims new research from the University of East Anglia.

Researchers looked at brain activity and cognitive abilities of children at six to nine months, and cognitive ability was followed up one year later. They compared the ‘visual working memory’ (the memory capacity that holds visual cues for processing) in children who had what is known in medical terms as ‘stunted growth’ with those of normal growth. They found that the visual working memory of young children with poor physical growth was disrupted, making them more easily distracted and setting the stage for poorer cognitive ability one year later.

Stunted growth has been linked to poor cognitive outcomes in older people, but this is the first time that a link has been found in young children. Researchers studied more than 200 children in the first ever brain imaging study of its kind.