Sustained attention in children with two etiologies of early hydrocephalus.

Publication Date



Neuropsychology. 2008 November; 22(6): 765–775.


Several studies have shown that children with spina bifida meningomyelocele (SBM) and hydrocephalus have attention problems on parent ratings and difficulties in stimulus orienting associated with a posterior brain attention system. Less is known about response control and inhibition associated with an anterior brain attention system. Using the Gordon Vigilance Task (Gordon, 1983), we studied error rate, reaction time, and performance over time for sustained attention, a key anterior attention function, in 101 children with SBM, 17 with aqueductal stenosis (AS; another condition involving congenital hydrocephalus), and 40 typically developing controls (NC). In SBM, we investigated the relation between cognitive attention and parent ratings of inattention and hyperactivity and explored the impact of medical variables. Children with SBM did not differ from AS or NC groups on measures of sustained attention, but they committed more errors and responded more slowly. Approximately one-third of the SBM group had attention symptoms, although parent attention ratings were not associated with task performance. Hydrocephalus does not account for the attention profile of children with SBM, which also reflects the distinctive brain dysmorphologies associated with this condition.


Adolescent, Attention, Brain, Child, Cognition, Female, Humans, Hydrocephalus, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Inhibition (Psychology), Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Memory, Meningomyelocele, Neuropsychological Tests, Psychomotor Agitation, Psychomotor Performance, Questionnaires, Reaction Time, Spinal Dysraphism, Time Factors


PMCID: PMC2593153