Impact of Demographic and Obstetric Factors on Infant Brain Volumes: A Population Neuroscience Study

    loading  Checking for direct PDF access through Ovid


Individual differences in neuroanatomy are associated with intellectual ability and psychiatric risk. Factors responsible for this variability remain poorly understood. We tested whether 17 major demographic and obstetric variables were associated with individual differences in brain volumes in 756 neonates assessed with MRI. Gestational age at MRI, sex, gestational age at birth, and birthweight were the most significant predictors, explaining 31% to 59% of variance. Unexpectedly, earlier born babies had larger brains than later born babies after adjusting for other predictors. Our results suggest earlier born children experience accelerated brain growth, either as a consequence of the richer sensory environment they experience outside the womb or in response to other factors associated with delivery. In the full sample, maternal and paternal education, maternal ethnicity, maternal smoking, and maternal psychiatric history showed marginal associations with brain volumes, whereas maternal age, paternal age, paternal ethnicity, paternal psychiatric history, and income did not. Effects of parental education and maternal ethnicity are partially mediated by differences in birthweight. Remaining effects may reflect differences in genetic variation or cultural capital. In particular late initiation of prenatal care could negatively impact brain development. Findings could inform public health policy aimed at optimizing child development.

    loading  Loading Related Articles