Birth Weight Linked to Brain Development Later in Childhood

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(HealthDay News) – Birth weight seems to have a strong influence on subsequent brain development, according to a study published online Nov. 19 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Kristine B. Walhovd, PhD, from the University of Oslo in Norway, and colleagues examined normal variance in birth weight and its relationship with magnetic resonance imaging-derived measures of brain development. Participants included 628 healthy children, adolescents, and young adults in the large-scale multicenter Pediatric Imaging, Neurocognition, and Genetics Study. The influence of birth weight on cortical thickness, surface area, and striatal and total brain volumes was assessed, after adjustment for variables including age, sex, household income, and genetic ancestry factors.

The researchers found that birth weight exerted a strong positive effect on regional cortical surface area in multiple regions and on total brain and caudate volumes. These associations were seen across all birth weight ranges and ages and were not limited to subsets of the heterogeneous sample.

"The findings show that (i) aspects of later child and adolescent brain development are influenced at birth and (ii) relatively small differences in birth weight across groups and conditions typically compared in neuropsychiatric research (eg, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, and personality disorders) may influence group differences observed in brain parameters of interest at a later stage in life," the authors write. "These findings should serve to increase our attention to early influences."

One author is a founder of and holds equity interest in CorTechs Labs and serves on its scientific advisory board.

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