The INTERGROWTH-21st Project Neurodevelopment Package: a novel method for the multi-dimensional assessment of neurodevelopment in pre-school age children

Fernandes M, Stein A, Newton CR, Cheikh-Ismail L, Kihara M, Wulff K, de Leon Quintana E, Aranzeta L, Soria-Frisch A, Acedo J, Ibanez D, Abubakar A, Giuliani F, Lewis T, Kennedy S, Villar J, International Fetal Newborn Growth Consortium for the 21st Century
PLoS One. 2014;9

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BACKGROUND: The International Fetal and Newborn Growth Consortium for the 21st Century (INTERGROWTH-21st) Project is a population-based, longitudinal study describing early growth and development in an optimally healthy cohort of 4607 mothers and newborns. At 24 months, children are assessed for neurodevelopmental outcomes with the INTERGROWTH-21st Neurodevelopment Package. This paper describes neurodevelopment tools for preschoolers and the systematic approach leading to the development of the Package. METHODS: An advisory panel shortlisted project-specific criteria (such as multi-dimensional assessments and suitability for international populations) to be fulfilled by a neurodevelopment instrument. A literature review of well-established tools for preschoolers revealed 47 candidates, none of which fulfilled all the project's criteria. A multi-dimensional assessment was, therefore, compiled using a package-based approach by: (i) categorizing desired outcomes into domains, (ii) devising domain-specific criteria for tool selection, and (iii) selecting the most appropriate measure for each domain. RESULTS: The Package measures vision (Cardiff tests); cortical auditory processing (auditory evoked potentials to a novelty oddball paradigm); and cognition, language skills, behavior, motor skills and attention (the INTERGROWTH-21st Neurodevelopment Assessment) in 35-45 minutes. Sleep-wake patterns (actigraphy) are also assessed. Tablet-based applications with integrated quality checks and automated, wireless electroencephalography make the Package easy to administer in the field by non-specialist staff. The Package is in use in Brazil, India, Italy, Kenya and the United Kingdom. CONCLUSIONS: The INTERGROWTH-21st Neurodevelopment Package is a multi-dimensional instrument measuring early child development (ECD). Its developmental approach may be useful to those involved in large-scale ECD research and surveillance efforts.