A longitudinal study of neurological soft signs from late childhood into early adulthood

Isabel Martins, Martin Lauterbach, Peter Slade, Henriques Luís, Timothy DeRouen, Michael Martin, Alexandre Caldas, Jorge Leitão, Gail Rosenbaum, Brenda Townes
Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 2008, 50 (8): 602-7
Neurological examination of children includes the screening for soft neurological signs (NSS). There is little knowledge about their evolution during adolescence, except that their lasting presence has been associated with developmental, psychological, and cognitive disorders. We report the results of a NSS exam (assessing gross and fine motor function and the presence of hyperactivity and motor impersistence) over a 5-year period, among a group of healthy children who were followed annually as part of a dental study. Their ages ranged from 11 to 15 years at onset to 14 to 18 years at the end. Participants were divided into four groups by age (younger and older) and sex. At the first evaluation there were 191 males and 150 females. NSS score diminished both with increasing age and follow-up time in both groups, but at different rates in males and females. Females reached the lowest scores two years before the younger subgroup of males. These results show that NSS change rapidly in adolescence and at different rates in males and females, which must be taken into account in clinical contexts. The evolution of NSS suggests that they are a signature of neural development.

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