Mental health and social functioning in early treated Phenylketonuria: The PKU-COBESO study

Rianne Jahja*, Stephan C. J. Huijbregts, Leo M. J. de Sonneville, Jaap J. van der Meere, Annet M. Bosch, Carla E. M. Hollak, M Estela Rubio-Gozalbo, Martijn C. G. J. Brouwers, Floris C. Hofstede, Maaike C. de Vries, Mirian C. H. Janssen, Ans T. van der Ploeg, Janneke G. Langendonk, Francjan J. van Spronsen

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article presents a new Dutch multicenter study ("PKU-COBESO") into cognitive and behavioral sequelae of early and continuously treated Phenylketonuria (PKU) patients. Part of the study sample will consist of young adult PKU patients who have participated in a large neuropsychological study approximately 10 years ago, when they were 7-to-15-year-olds (Huijbregts et al., 2002 [1]). Their neurocognitive development will be mapped in association with their earlier and continued metabolic history, taking into account possible changes in, for instance, medication. A second part of the sample will consist of PKU patients between the ages of 7 and approximately 40 years (i.e., born in or after 1974, when neonatal screening was introduced in The Netherlands), who have not participated in the earlier neuropsychological study. Again, their cognitive functioning will be related to their metabolic history. With respect to aspects of cognition, there will be an emphasis on executive functioning. The concept of executive functioning will however be extended with further emphasis on the impact of cognitive deficits on the daily lives of PKU patients, aspects of social cognition, social functioning, and behavior/mental health (i.e., COgnition, BEhavior, SOcial functioning: COBESO). In addition to a description of the PKU-COBESO study, some preliminary results with respect to mental health and social functioning will be presented in this article. Thirty adult PKU patients (mean age 27.8, SD 6.4) and 23 PKU patients under the age of 18 years (mean age 11.0, SD 33) were compared to 14 (mean age 26.9 years, SD 5.9) and 7 matched controls (mean age 10.5, SD 2.6) respectively, with respect to their scores on the Adult Self-Report or Child Behavior Checklist (measuring mental health problems) and the Social Skills Checklist or Social Skills Rating System (measuring social skills). Whereas there were very few significant group differences (except for mental health problems in the internalizing spectrum for adult PKU patients), possibly due to the small control groups, several significant associations between mental health problems and Phe levels were observed for the PKU patients. Childhood Phe levels and internalizing problems for adult PKU patients were related; concurrent Phe was associated with both internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems for those under the age of 18. These preliminary results underline the importance of early dietary adherence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S57-S61
JournalMolecular Genetics and Metabolism
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Phenylketonuria
  • Childhood phenylalanine
  • Mental health
  • Social functioning

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