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Newborn Thyroid Activity Linked to Academic Struggles

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Babies born with moderately high concentrations of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) have a higher risk of poor educational and development outcomes at school age, according to a study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

About one in 2000 children are born with congenital hypo­thyroidism each year. If untreated for several months after birth, abnormal thyroid function can lead to growth failure and permanent intellectual disability.

Screening for congenital hypothyroidism is usually done by testing concentrations of neonatal TSH in the blood, providing an opportunity to identify infants with abnormal thyroid hormone concentrations. Currently, only newborns with TSH concentrations at the 99.95th percentile of the population range are diagnosed with congenital hypothyroidism and treated with thyroxine.

The study, conducted at The University of Sydney, linked data collected from more than 500,000 infants between 1994 and 2008, including newborn TSH levels, to subsequent assessments of childhood development and school performance. These included NAPLAN results for numeracy and reading at ages 7–15 years, and teacher assessments reported after the first year of school as part of the Australian Early Development Census.

The researchers found a gradually increasing risk of poor educational and development outcomes for newborns with...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.