Critique: Lower IQs in adult sickle cell patients

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When this study first came to my desk, I was a bit scandalized. I thought that it was just more negative propaganda put forward by ‘the ignorant masses’ to stigmatize sickle cell warriors. Call me jaded, but lately, most of the SC research that has been published seems to be based on unfounded assumptions. I read the whole article, and even searched for the full study as conducted by Dr. Vichinsky.

The study looked at 141 sickle cell patients and 44 healthy subjects, all between ages 19 and 55.

Most of the sickle cell patients fell within that range, but were lower overall than the healthy participants – they had a mean score of 87 compared to 95 for the health subjects. About a third of the sickle cell patients were below the normal IQ range.

Vichinsky doesn’t yet know what’s causing the IQ results, but he suspects chronic oxygen deprivation due to sluggish blood flow from the misshapen red blood cells, which may affect brain function.

I’m not a scientist, but I really don’t think that this research study calls for such a sensationalized headline. The SCD patients were probably in pain while they took the IQ test: and studies have shown that if you are in pain, hungry, tired or stressed; you can’t concentrate or focus on a test. If the subjects were not in pain, then I surmise that they might have had their senses and IQ dulled by the opiates that they had taken the same day or day before. Besides…an IQ drop of 8 points is no big whup…all you needed was one person that tested less than average and this would have pulled the mean down.

There needs to be more forays made into this quantitative study before it’s even legit in my eyes. For example, there is no evidence that the structural damage the participants had was related to sickle cell. It could have been genetic, with some ethnic inference, or attributed to any number of  lifestyle choices like smoking, sedentary lifestyle etc. But unfortunately, the media has grabbed it and splattered the internet with it, pandering to the innate ignorance of the masses.

Now the public is just going to start thinking that sickle cell patients have low IQs. Grrrr!

Read the full article at: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/05/11/MNAG1DCRQ0.DTL#ixzz0o9BkY6Jb

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