Trace elements such as copper are essential micronutrients. Traditionally, copper has been studied in the context of micronutrient deficiencies. Recent studies in both animals and humans, however, have revealed that elevated blood copper can also have adverse effects on cognitive function since free copper can cross the blood-brain barrier and subsequently impose oxidative stress to neuronal cells. However, most of these human studies were conducted in adult populations with and without cognitive decline, and there are few studies on the effect of excess copper on cognitive function in children. This project seeks to look at the effects of elevated copper levels on cognitive development in a population of school age children (ages 10–14 years with mean age of 12.03 years and standard deviation (SD) of 0.44) from Jintan, China. Briefly, serum copper levels and working memory test scores were collected from a sample of 826 children with a mean serum copper level of 98.10 (SD 0.75). Copper level was considered as a categorical variable (taking the first group as those with as ≤84.3 μg/dL, the second group as >84.3 and ≤110.4 μg/dL, and the third group as >110.4 μg/dL with the cut-off values defined by the first and third quartiles of the sample). Results showed a significant association between high copper levels (>110.4 μg/dL) and poorer working memory in boys but this association was not seen in lower copper levels in either sex. These results suggests that in school age children, like in adults, elevated copper levels have the potential to adversely affect cognition.
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