Classical galactosemia: neuropsychological and psychosocial functioning beyond intellectual abilities

M.M. Welsink-Karssies, K.J. Oostrom, M.E. Hermans, C.E.M. Hollak, M.C.H. Janssen, J.G. Langendonk, E. Oussoren, M. Estela Rubio Gozalbo, M. de Vries, G.J. Geurtsen, A.M. Bosch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background Despite early diagnosis and treatment, Classical Galactosemia (CG) patients frequently develop long-term complications, such as cognitive impairment. Available literature primarily reports on general intellectual abilities and shows a substantially lower Full Scale Intelligence Quotient (FSIQ) in CG patients than in the general population. Both problems in social functioning as well as internalizing problems are often reported in CG patients. The combination of intelligence, cognitive functioning, behavior and social functioning has not been studied systematically in CG patients. Methods To determine if CG patients demonstrate a specific neuropsychological and psychosocial profile, we investigated intelligence, functioning on multiple cognitive domains, behavior and social functioning with a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery and questionnaires (self- and proxy-reported). Results The data of 48 patients, aged 4-47 years are reported. FSIQ ranged from 45 to 103 (mean 77 +/- 14). A negative correlation between age and FSIQ was demonstrated (p = 0.037) which resulted directly from the inclusion of four young 'milder' patients detected by newborn screening (NBS) with an expected better clinical outcome. Compared to normative data, patients had significantly lower but highly variable scores on all cognitive domains, especially on tests requiring mental speed. In the context of the FSIQ, 43% of the cognitive test results exceeded IQ based expectations. Overall, the patients' scores on social functioning were in the normal range but internalizing problems were frequently reported. In our cohort, an early initiation of dietary treatment due to NBS or family screening did not result in a more favorable neuropsychological outcome. Conclusions In this study, we demonstrated that as a cohort, CG patients have a below average intelligence and impaired cognitive functioning without a distinctive neuropsychological profile. The effect of age on neurocognitive functioning should be assessed in longitudinal studies. Social functioning was not impaired, but patients may be at risk for internalizing problems. Considering the large variability in cognitive, behavioral and social functioning and the finding that cognitive outcomes may exceed IQ based expectations, an individual evaluation and follow-up is warranted in all CG patients to ensure timely support if needed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number42
Number of pages13
JournalOrphanet Journal of Rare Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2020


  • behavior
  • children
  • cognitive functioning
  • galt deficiency
  • intelligence
  • mutation
  • neuropsychology
  • social functioning
  • Intelligence
  • GALT deficiency
  • Social functioning
  • Cognitive functioning
  • Neuropsychology
  • Behavior

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