The goal was to determine whether the quality of general movements (GMs) for preterm children had predictive value for cognitive development at school age.
In this prospective cohort study, 60 preterm infants (gestational age, median: 30.0 weeks [range: 25–33 weeks]; birth weight, median: 1130 g [range: 595–1800 g]) without cerebral palsy were studied. The quality of GMs was assessed prospectively as normal or abnormal, from video recordings that were made at regular intervals until 17 weeks after term. At 7 to 11 years, intelligence was tested by using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children III, Dutch version. Total IQ (TIQ), verbal IQ (VIQ), and performance IQ (PIQ) scores were calculated.
The median TIQ was 93 (range: 67–113), VIQ 96 (range: 68–117), and PIQ 92 (range: 65–119). Fifteen children (25%) had low TIQ scores (<85). When the quality of GMs normalized before 8 weeks after term, TIQ, VIQ, and PIQ scores were in the normal range. Consistently abnormal GMs to 8 weeks after term were associated with lower TIQ, VIQ, and PIQ scores. With correction for male gender and the educational levels of the parents, the likelihood ratio of consistently abnormal GMs for a low TIQ was 4.9 (95% confidence interval: 1.3–17.6). The model explained 22.4% of the variance.
The quality of GMs during the early postterm period is a marker for intelligence at school age. Abnormal GMs during the early postterm period may reflect injury or developmental disruptions of brain areas involved in cognitive development.