Myths of Mental Development & Cognitive Deficits of Spina Bifida

This page contains the most popular questions people have on spina bifida and mental development. On this page, you can find all of these popular questions answered in an elaborate manner. You will also finally discover the answers to the unique questions that have been asked but not answered on other media platforms.

Spina Bifida is a heterogeneous congenital disorder that is associated with developmental anomalies of the spine and the central nervous system creating complex physical and neuropsychological symptomatology. This birth defect is distinguished by its different forms that range from mild to severe with the most common form known as myelomeningocele.

Does spina bifida affect intelligence?

Spina Bifida does not affect intelligence. In most studies, it has been discovered that the intelligence quotient (IQ) of patients is within the normal range but usually lower than the IQ of the general population. [1]

Some babies born with this type of birth defect have excess fluid in the brain also known as hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus can damage the brain and cause problems that can affect the baby’s intelligence.

Most people with SB have normal intelligence but they may also have learning difficulties. It has been reported that some patients may have a short attention span, difficulty solving problems, and difficulty reading. [2]

There have also been cases where people with SB have trouble understanding some spoken language, especially understanding fast conversations happening between a group of people. Patients with this birth defect can also have difficulty making detailed plans or organizing activities.

Reportedly, those with SB may have issues with visual and physical coordination, like fastening buttons or tying shoelaces. Further research reports that patients have encountered other difficulties, like verbal responses or skilled manipulative ability. [3]

What are examples of cognitive deficits?

The examples of cognitive deficits are frequently attributed to the state of hydrocephalus in the brain. Cognitive deficits can also be caused by the associated complications of Spina Bifida, including infections, seizures, or shunt revisions. [4]

Due to the severity of hydrocephalus, patients with spina can suffer from a wide range of cognitive deficits, such as attention, memory, visuo-motor processing, speed of information processing, and word fluency.

Studies have shown that children with SB may suffer from deficiencies in verbal memory and verbal fluency, such as their communication is unclear and difficult to process. Children with this birth defect may also suffer from deficits in timing, deficits in attention, and deficits in movement. [5]

What are the symptoms of cognitive deficit?

The symptoms of cognitive deficit are signs of impairments in the visual-spatial working memory, executive functioning, language, intelligence, and learning. These symptoms can be especially visible in patients suffering from spina bifida myelomeningocele. [6]

Cognitive deficits in patients with SB are considered developmental disabilities as these deficits can impair their academic ability, verbal memory, motor ability, perception, and speech fluency.

This video is a presentation based on the content of the Canadian pediatric society position statement “Mental health problems in children with neuromotor disabilities”.

Does spina bifida affect behavior?

Spina Bifida does not affect behavior, in general. It has been reported that some children with this condition can have a well-developed sense of what comes first or second but they can also have a poorly developed sense of how events occur in time.

Infants with SB may have developmental delay and ocular motor incoordination while older children with this birth defect may have cognitive or behavioral changes. Adults with Spina Bifida have been reported to have problems in processing time, space, and number. [7]

How does spina bifida affect a child’s emotional development?

Spina Bifida does affect a child’s emotional development, from early childhood to adolescence. Children with SB can have increased difficulties with self-esteem, body image, isolation, depression, social skills, and exclusion.

Studies have shown that children with SB do not have a temporal sequencing problem, but there have been cases where children suffering from this condition were found to have a problem in temporal motor regulation, which is the basis of any functional difficulty they face like drawing, handwriting, and movement control. [8]

How does spina bifida affect a child’s learning?

Spina Bifida can affect a child’s learning, depending on the severity of this condition. Some children may have problems with learning. They can also be restless, work slowly, and have difficulty paying attention. They may also have trouble making decisions and deciding on what they want to do.

Reports state that some children with this medical condition can have a well-developed sense of what comes first or second but they can also have a poorly developed sense of how events occur in time.

Based on studies, some children with SB exhibit metacognitive control over their academic skills, as they may take more time to read like most typically developing children. Adolescents with a form of SB have no issues solving a mathematics word problem that required them to learn and implement executive strategies to solve the problem.

Children with hydrocephalus have been reported to have reduced cognitive functioning compared to healthy children. They have shown signs of poor attention and high distractibility, reduced language skills, and impaired memory. They have also displayed signs of maths, numeracy, and problem-solving difficulties. [9]

This video is about how those with SB may struggle with assignments at school, tacking chores at home, and meeting work deadlines. This presentation by Jennifer Queally, PhD, a neuropsychologist with the SB and Spinal Cord Conditions Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, will help you understand how executive dysfunction influences how the brain of people with SB processes information and tasks.

Does spina bifida cause brain damage?

Spina Bifida can cause brain damage for patients diagnosed with spina bifida aperta (SBA). Studies have shown that some patients with severe cases of SBA suffer from numerous brain malformations, which cause them to have a below-average IQ score as children. Reportedly, brain malformations occur more in the subtype of SBA than in other subtypes of SB like Occulta (SBO). [10]

How do you fix the cognitive impairment?

You can fix the cognitive impairment by providing patients with SB with the right professional support, resources, and opportunities that can help on a daily basis. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses in SB patients can help the cognitive impairment and may prevent some of the negative outcomes.

Parents can work together with healthcare providers, medical and educational professionals to provide children with SB with the right treatment and support. [11]

How do you teach a child with spina bifida?

You can teach a child with spina bifida by providing them access to high-quality education with services that support the development of social interaction skills, independence, self-regulation, and attention.

If the child is home-schooled, support services and supplemental resources should be provided to aid the child. Children with any type of SB should be evaluated to see if they are eligible for special educational services if they show signs of learning problems. [12]

Do people with spina bifida have mental retardation?

People with spina bifida can have mental retardation if the fluid accumulation around the brain is not treated aggressively. In some cases of SB, the fluid around the brain often cannot drain naturally, as it normally should. The extra fluid, if not treated, can cause mental retardation or neurological problems. [13]

Does spina bifida cause anxiety?

Spina Bifida can cause anxiety as many people with this medical condition find it difficult to manage change, especially when it comes to things that are out of their control. Sometimes, people with SB get anxious about trying new things or about trying to control all aspects of their life by creating routines or rituals.

People with this birth defect prefer to lead a type of lifestyle that doesn’t require change in any way. They often lead a narrow and dull lifestyle that prevents change from happening as they find it difficult to adapt to situations they are not familiar with.

Studies showed that people with SB and hydrocephalus are more likely to suffer from anxiety than normal and healthy people. [14]

Is spina bifida a cognitive disability?

Spina Bifida can be a cognitive disability in some cases as there have been studies documenting people with SB and the presence of several cognitive disabilities they suffer from, such as learning disability and intellectual disability. There have also been cases of people with SB who do not suffer from any severe cognitive disability.

Children with SB often have cognitive impairments making it difficult for them to perform normal day-to-day activities at home and at school. As a result, their social life might suffer if they do not receive the right support and resources that can aid them on a daily basis. [15]

Does spina bifida cause schizophrenia?

Spina Bifida may cause schizophrenia, according to recent research developments. It has been discovered that events during the prenatal and perinatal periods may play an important role in some cases of schizophrenia. Researchers have discovered a concordance between the occurrence of congenital neural tube defects (SB) and schizophrenia, which suggests that prenatal folate deficiency may be a potential causal factor in causing this severe mental illness. [16]


These are the most popular questions on Spina Bifida and Mental Development that have been recently asked online. If something is missing here or any questions you may have about SB and its connection with Mental Development, do not hesitate to contact us.


1. NHS. (n.d.). NHS choices. Retrieved June 11, 2022, from
2. Spennato, P., Savarese, L., & Cinalli, G. (n.d.). Intellectual outcome in Spina Bifida. The Spina Bifida, 405–411.
3. Educational issues among children with spina bifida. (n.d.). Retrieved June 10, 2022, from
4. Spennato, P., Savarese, L., & Cinalli, G. (n.d.). Intellectual outcome in Spina Bifida. The Spina Bifida, 405–411.
5. Vinck, A., Maassen, B., Mullaart, R., & Rotteveel, J. (2006, September). Arnold-Chiari-II malformation and cognitive functioning in spina bifida. Journal of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry. Retrieved June 11, 2022, from
6. Dennis, M., & Barnes, M. A. (2010). The cognitive phenotype of spina bifida meningomyelocele. Developmental disabilities research reviews. Retrieved June 11, 2022, from
7. Behaviour. Shine. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2022, from
8. Schneider, J., Mohr, N., Aliatakis, N., Seidel, U., John, R., Promnitz, G., Spors, B., & Kaindl, A. M. (2020). Brain malformations and cognitive performance in Spina Bifida. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 63(3), 295–302.
9. Neuropsychology guideline. Spina Bifida Association. (2020, June 5). Retrieved June 11, 2022, from
10. Iddon, J. L., Morgan, D. J. R., Loveday, C., Sahakian, B. J., & Pickard, J. D. (2004, August 1). Neuropsychological profile of young adults with spina bifida with or without hydrocephalus. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. Retrieved June 11, 2022, from
11. Journal of Neurology, neurosurgery and psychiatry (JNNP). Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry (JNNP). (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2022, from
12. Holbein, C. E., Lennon, J. M., Kolbuck, V. D., Zebracki, K., Roache, C. R., & Holmbeck, G. N. (2014, November 25). Observed differences in social behaviors exhibited in peer interactions between youth with spina bifida and their peers: Neuropsychological correlates. OUP Academic. Retrieved June 12, 2022, from
13. Queally JT;Barnes MA;Castillo H;Castillo J;Fletcher JM; (n.d.). Neuropsychological care guidelines for people with Spina Bifida. Journal of pediatric rehabilitation medicine. Retrieved June 11, 2022, from
14. Mark R Foster, M. D. (2019, October 28). Spina bifida causes, treatment, symptoms, types & life expectancy. eMedicineHealth. Retrieved June 11, 2022, from
15. Riedel, D., Hagman, G., Green, D., & Fristedt, S. (n.d.). Cognitive function and performance of everyday activities in adults with spina bifida. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine. Retrieved June 11, 2022, from
16. Alan S. Brown, M. D. E. S. S. (n.d.). Prenatal risk factors in schizophrenia. Psychiatric Times. Retrieved June 11, 2022, from



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