Headache is one of the most common neurological disorders in developmental age. Several studies investigated the relationship between headache and emotional/behavioral problems. We studied non-verbal cognitive abilities, including non-verbal memory and attention skills, in order to evaluate the impact of primary headache on these domains. The latest version of the cognitive battery Leiter International Performance Scale - Third Edition (Leiter-3), a non-verbal test, was administered to 35 children and adolescents affected by migraine or tension-type headache and to 23 healthy subjects. We found that frequency of attacks and headache disability (evaluated with the Pediatric Migraine Disability Assessment Score Questionnaire) significantly correlate with non-verbal memory and sustained attention skills. However, we found that headache disability has a significant impact on specific cognitive domains related to sustained attention and non-verbal memory skills. The relationship between headache and memory/attention deficits may have an explanation based on a possible common physiopathology ground, including noradrenergic and dopaminergic pathways.
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