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  • Writer's pictureSaeed Anwar Anuj

Limb-girdle muscular dystrophies and cognitive abilities

During a recent visit to Bangladesh this summer, I encountered a thought-provoking question from a parent of a child with a differential diagnosis of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD). They described their child's struggles with understanding and following simple instructions. This issue resonated with another experience shared recently on my social media by a young man with LGMD type 2I (LGMD2I), who spoke of his persistent struggles in understanding mathematics. These personal stories converge on a critical query: Does LGMD influence cognitive abilities? In this write-up, I delve into the intricacies of LGMD, examining its potential effects on cognitive skills through the lens of scientific understanding.

LGMD encompasses a variety of subtypes, each defined by unique genetic mutations, yet commonly characterized by progressive muscle weakness. Generally, LGMD is not associated with cognitive impairments. This observation holds true even when we zoom in on specific subtypes, such as LGMD2I.

LGMD2I, caused by mutations in the FKRP gene, primarily affects muscle strength and function. While cognitive deficits are not commonly associated with LGMD2I, individual experiences vary. A patient with LGMD2I, for instance, described ongoing challenges in math, raising questions about whether these difficulties are inherently linked to LGMD2I or result from other factors.

It's important to distinguish muscular dystrophies and their potential impact on cognitive functions. While certain forms, such as specific congenital muscular dystrophies, are linked with cognitive challenges, LGMD, including LGMD2I, does not typically affect cognitive skills or intelligence quotient (IQ). Individuals with LGMD often experience intellectual development similar to the general population.

However, the struggles with understanding and following simple instructions, as well as with basic math, might not be directly related to the condition itself. These difficulties can stem from various factors, including learning disabilities such as dyscalculia, which affects the understanding of numbers and math concepts. Furthermore, it's essential to consider the role of social isolation in these cases. Patients with LGMD may find themselves isolated due to their physical condition, and this isolation can have a significant impact on their cognitive behavior, including their ability to process information and interact with their environment. Comprehensive evaluations by educational and psychological specialists are crucial to identify specific learning challenges and provide the necessary support, taking into account both the educational needs and the social-emotional well-being of the individual.

For those living with LGMD, focusing on overall well-being, including both physical and cognitive health, is vital. Integrating regular physical therapy, psychological support, and educational assistance as needed can address the physical aspects of LGMD while also tackling any educational or cognitive challenges.

While LGMD primarily influences physical strength and muscle function, it does not inherently impact cognitive abilities or IQ. Challenges in areas such as mathematics may have various causes and require individualized evaluation and support. Recognizing the difference between the physical symptoms of muscular dystrophies and cognitive development is essential for providing comprehensive care. A multidisciplinary approach, addressing both the physical and educational needs of those with LGMD, is key to enhancing their quality of life.

13 December 2023
Saeed Anwar
Edmonton, Canada
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