Numerical skills affected in the womb

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A study revealed that children born to mothers with low thyroid hormone levels tend to experience problems with maths in early primary school.

Dutch researchers tracked 1196 healthy children from their birth to the age of five. They recorded the level of their mothers’ thyroxine levels at 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Thereafter, they assessed the children’s language and arithmetic test results.

It was found that those born to mothers with low thyroxine levels were at double the risk of obtaining below average arithmetic results.

The scientists, led by Dr Martijn Finken from the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, said the language results were the same.

The maths results remained the same even after the child’s family background was considered.

Low thyroxine in pregnant women has already been linked to poor mental development during infancy, which could lead to lower physical growth and learning difficulties. Dr Finken said whether the same problems will continue into adulthood will have to be determined as they continue to follow the path of these children in a bid to obtain a result.

He suggested that hormone tests may be useful to identify those children who would require extra aid in mathematics at school.

He added that it is possible that the children could gain benefit from hormonal supplements in a bid to boost brain development in the womb.

This type of treatment has been tested in the past, but failed to improve cognitive ability, however the timing of the treatment may have an impact on the result.

Image Credit: r. nial bradshaw

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