London: The intelligence quotient (IQ) of adults born very prematurely or with very low birth weight can be predicted when they are just toddlers, new research has found.
"We believe this is the first time a research paper has looked into the prediction of the IQ of adults over the age of 26 who were born very premature or with very low birth weight,” said lead researcher Dieter Wolke, professor at the University of Warwick in England, Britain.
"The results indicate that assessing two year olds who were born very pre-term or very underweight will provide a reasonably good prediction to what their adult IQ will be," Wolke noted.
In contrast, the research results found that the IQ of adults who were born full-term couldn't be accurately predicted till the age of six.
The study was conducted in southern Bavaria, Germany and followed children from birth into adulthood who were born between 1985-86.
Two hundred and sixty babies born either very prematurely (before 32 weeks) or with very low birth weight (fewer than 1.5kgs) were compared with 229 babies who were born full-term.
Data on cognitive function was assessed with developmental and IQ tests at five and 20 months and at four, six, eight, and 26 years of age.
Across all assessments within the study, very premature and very low birth weight children and adults had lower IQ scores than those born full-term, even when individuals with severe cognitive impairment were excluded from the comparisons.
"These findings provide strong support for the timing of cognitive follow-up at age two years to plan special support services for children with cognitive problems,” the study noted.
The findings were detailed in the journal pediatrics.