In Patients with Minor Beta-Thalassemia, Cognitive Performance Is Related to Length of Education, But not to Minor Beta-Thalassemia or Hemoglobin Levels
Objective: Thalassemia is one of the most frequent monogenic disorders, leading to impairment in the maturation and survival of red blood cells. The question examined here is whether, and if so, to what extent, people with beta-thalassemia might also be impaired in their cognitive functioning. Previous results in adults with beta-thalassemia showed cognitive impairment when compared to healthy controls. However, length of education was never taken into consideration as a possible confounder. Accordingly, the aim of the present study was to assess people with minor beta-thalassemia and compare them to healthy controls, while controlling for length of education.
Method: A total of 25 adults (mean age: 29.36 years; 56% females) with beta-thalassemia and 25 healthy controls (mean age: 27.84 years; 72% females) took part in this cross-sectional study. They underwent cognitive testing (executive functions, attention, working memory), and their haemoglobin levels were assessed.
Results: Cognitive performance did not significantly differ between patients with minor beta-thalassemia and healthy controls. Irrespective of group, higher cognitive performance was strongly associated with time spent in education. No gender differences were observed.
Conclusion: Compared to healthy controls, cognitive performance was not impaired among patients with minor beta-thalassemia when length of education was introduced as a further co-variate. In both patients with minor beta-thalassemia and healthy controls, higher cognitive performance was associated with time spent for education. Health professionals should inform patients with minor beta-thalassemia that cognitive performance is related to the length of education and not to the health status of minor beta-thalassemia per se.
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