High Glutamate and Choline Levels in Brain Indicate Poor Pediatric Cognitive Development

Reading and language skills development are slowed by high levels of metabolites glutamate and choline in the brain, according to a study published in the

Higher levels of the metabolites glutamate and choline in the brains of young children may hinder reading and language skills development, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

The connection between these higher levels and reading disabilities have been explored before, but this study from Yale University School of Medicine is believed to be the first longitudinal examination of neurochemistry.

Researchers measured levels of glutamate, choline, and other metabolites in 75 children aged 6 to 10 through behavioral testing to characterize children’s reading, language, and general cognitive skills on scale of impaired to superior. During this age period, children are in the critical development period and considered “emergent readers,” when neurocircuits that support skilled reading and speaking are developed. The magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy images showed children with higher glutamate and choline levels in their brains tended to have lower composite scores for reading and language areas, such as phonology and vocabulary. After additional testing 24 months later, the same correlation was shown.

Investigators also note that higher glutamate and choline levels have been noted in hyperexcitability in children, which is another possible factor in cognitive impairment.

“Further research may show whether there is a chemical basis that contributes to learning deficits among the reading-disabled children,” said Robert Fulbright, MD, the study’s senior author.