Aim  This meta-analysis provides a systematic review of studies into intellectual and attentional functioning of paediatric brain tumour survivors (PBTS) as assessed by two widely used measures: the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (3rd edition; WISC-III) and the Conners’ Continuous Performance Test (CPT).

Method  Studies were located that reported on performance of PBTS (age range 6–16y). Meta-analytic effect sizes were calculated for Full-scale IQ, Performance IQ, and Verbal IQ as measured by the WISC-III, and mean hit reaction time, errors of omission, and errors of commission as measured by the CPT. Exploratory analyses investigated the possible impacts of treatment mode, tumour location, age at diagnosis, and time since diagnosis on intelligence.

Results  Twenty-nine studies were included: 22 reported on the WISC-III in 710 PBTS and seven on CPT results in 372 PBTS. PBTS performed below average (ps<0.001) on Full-scale IQ (Cohen’s d=−0.79), Performance IQ (d=−0.90), and Verbal IQ (d=−0.54). PBTS committed more errors of omission than the norm (d=0.82, p<0.001); no differences were found for mean hit reaction time and errors of commission. Cranial radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and longer time since diagnosis were associated with lower WISC-III scores (ps<0.05).

Interpretation  PBTS have seriously impaired intellectual functioning and attentiveness. Being treated with cranial radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy as well as longer time since diagnosis leads to worse intellectual functioning.