Prenatal manganese exposure and intrinsic functional connectivity of emotional brain areas in children

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Abstract

Manganese (Mn) is an essential trace metal that is neurotoxic at high levels of exposure. Disruption of brain maturation processes during the prenatal period may have lasting consequences. During this critical period, the developing human brain is uniquely vulnerable to exposure to environmental toxicants such as Mn, and prenatal Mn exposure has been associated with changes in brain areas involved in emotion processing and regulation. The goal of the present pilot study was to examine whether prenatal Mn exposure is associated with changes in the intrinsic functional connectivity (iFC) of the brain in childhood, focusing on changes in emotional brain areas. We selected 15 subjects (age 6–7 years) from an ongoing longitudinal birth cohort study to participate in a resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study. Prenatal Mn exposure was determined from maternal blood collected during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy. We used seed-based correlation analyses and independent component analyses to examine whether prenatal Mn exposure was associated with the iFC of the brain in children. We found that the right globus pallidus showed reduced iFC with the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and lateral prefrontal cortex in children who were exposed to higher prenatal Mn levels, after controlling for sociodemographic confounders (SES, maternal education, child sex, home environment support) and environmental confounders (prenatal lead exposure and air pollution). These findings suggest that prenatal Mn exposure is associated with reduced iFC of brain areas involved in emotion processing and regulation in children. Future studies should investigate whether this reduced iFC mediates the association between prenatal Mn exposure and emotional dysfunction in childhood.

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