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Postgraduate Research Bursaries 2006-2007

Language abilities of children exposed to sodium valproate in utero

Rebecca Entwistle

PhD student in the Department of Neurological Science at the University of Liverpool.

It is relatively well known that children whose mothers have needed to take anti-epileptic medication during pregnancy may be at an increased risk of developing physical problems. However, little conclusive research has been conducted into the cognitive implications following exposure to anti-epileptic medications in the womb.

The Liverpool and Manchester Neurodevelopment group is currently running a prospective study to investigate this, following children from birth to age six years assessing them on a number of different skills.

Preliminary results from this study and previous research suggest that children exposed to sodium valproate in utero (in the womb) may be at a greater risk of delayed language development and verbal functioning.

The aim of the proposed study is to uncover if children exposed to sodium valproate are at greater risk from difficulties in language functioning and if so are all aspects of language effected equally or are some more susceptible to the effects of sodium valproate?

The children exposed to sodium valproate will be assessed between the ages of six and seven years on a standardized language assessment and compared to a group of children whose mothers did not need to take medication during pregnancy.

This study is important as language is a vital skill allowing us to interact and understand those around us. Identifying children prone to language impairments following exposure in the womb to anti-epileptic medication is important and has implications for early interventions and the future treatment of women with epilepsy.

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