AIM: To investigate cognitive functioning and depressive symptoms in adolescents with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
METHODS: A neuropsychological test battery, including subtests of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised and III, Wechsler Memory Scale-Revised, California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT), Stroop Color-Word Test, and Trail Making Test, which assessed verbal and visual short- and long-term memory, processing speed, logical reasoning, verbal intelligence, attention, and executive functioning, was administered to 13- to 19-year-old patients with IBD (n = 34; active disease n = 20). Depressive symptoms were measured with the Beck Depression Inventory. The findings were compared with peers with non-acute juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA; n = 23). Patients with coexisting psychiatric disorders were excluded.
RESULTS: The IBD group, especially patients in the acute phase, made more perseverative errors in the CVLT test that assessed verbal memory than the JIA group (6.0 ± 4.3 vs 3.3 ± 2.9, P < 0.01), but no other differences between the IBD and JIA groups were observed in the neuropsychological tests. The difference was close to statistical significance, even when glucocorticoid medication was controlled for (P < 0.052). The IBD group had more depressive symptoms than the JIA group (7.9 ± 7.6 vs 4.0 ± 4.0, P < 0.05). Approximately one third of the IBD group had at least mild depressive symptoms, and those with acute illness had the highest scores. However, depressive symptoms were not related to the difference in the verbal memory test (perseverative errors in the CVLT) between the IBD and JIA groups.
CONCLUSION: Adolescents with acute IBD may have mild verbal memory problems but no major cognitive deficits compared to peers with JIA.
Keywords: Cognitive impairment, Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, Depressive symptoms, Ulcerative colitis, Adolescents