Heart surgery is commonly used to repair congenital heart defects and to perform heart transplantation. The associated hypoxia before or during the surgery may cause damage in the parasaggital area of the cerebral cortex, with resulting difficulty during tasks requiring visual-spatial and visual-motor skills. This study compares the performance of children who received a heart transplant during infancy to that of nonclinical children with no medical complications on three visual-motor measures, three visual-spatial measures, and two computerized visual-spatial tasks - a Block Design Matching task and a Mental Rotation task. The children who received a heart transplant achieved significantly lower scores than the nonclinical children on all three visual-motor measures and all three visual-spatial measures. However, based on the tests’ norms, their scores were significantly lower than expected for only two of the visual-motor measures. For the computerized tasks, the children who received a heart transplant had a lower accuracy than the nonclinical children on the Mental Rotation task, but they performed at a similar level on the Block Design Matching task. For the Mental Rotation task, accuracy was significantly lower when the stimuli were closer to upside down. There were no significant differences between the groups’ response times for either task. On the Block Design Matching task, the children in both groups responded faster when the images were the same and when the images were less complex. For the Mental Rotation task, the children in both groups responded faster when the stimulus was a letter “R” rather than when it was an “F” or a “G,” when the stimulus was a letter rather than a mirror image of a letter, and when the stimulus was closer to the upright position. Consistent support was found only for the hypothesis that children who received a heart transplant would experience difficulty on the visual-motor measures. The differences between the groups on the visual-spatial measures were probably due to a higher SES for the nonclinical children, and the higher level of accuracy on the Mental Rotation task might have been due to the complexity of the task or other skills required (e.g. working memory).

LLU Discipline





Graduate Studies

First Advisor

Kiti Freier

Second Advisor

Paul Haerich

Third Advisor

Richard Chinnock

Fourth Advisor

Ranae Larsen

Fifth Advisor

Matt Riggs

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Heart Transplantation -- in infancy and childhood -- psychology; Psychomotor Performance; Thoracic Surgery -- adverse effects; Perceptual Disorders



Page Count

viii; 115

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives