Parental socioeconomic status affects brain development in fetus: Study
USA: Parental socioeconomic status is associated with altered in vivo fetal neurodevelopment, finds a recent study in the journal JAMA Network Open.
Children born in a lower socioeconomic status have poorer educational, neuropsychological, and socioeconomic outcomes. The findings from the new study suggest that an altered prenatal programming may be associated with these outcomes and there is a need for future targeted prenatal interventions.
Yuan-Chiao Lu, Children's National Hospital, Washington, District of Columbia, and colleagues aimed to determine the association between parental socioeconomic status and in vivo fetal brain growth and cerebral cortical development using advanced, 3-dimensional fetal magnetic resonance imaging.
For the purpose, the researchers enrolled 144 healthy pregnant women from 2 low-risk community obstetrical hospitals from 2012 through 2019 in the District of Columbia. Women with a prenatal history without complications that included recommended screening laboratory and ultrasound studies were included. Those with multiple gestation pregnancy, known or suspected congenital infection, dysmorphic features of the fetus, and documented chromosomal abnormalities were excluded.
T2-weighted fetal brain magnetic resonance images were acquired. Each pregnant woman was scanned at up to 2 points in the fetal period. Data were analyzed from June through November 2020.
The researchers documented their parental education level and occupation status.
Main outcomes included regional fetal brain tissue volume (for cortical gray matter, white matter, cerebellum, deep gray matter, and brainstem) and cerebral cortical features (ie, lobe volume, local gyrification index, and sulcal depth) in the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes were calculated.
Key findings of the study include:
- Higher parental education level was associated with significantly increased volume in the fetal white matter (mothers: β, 2.86; fathers: β, 2.39), deep gray matter (mothers: β, 0.16; fathers: β, 0.16), and brainstem (mothers: β, 0.06; fathers: β, 0.04).
- Higher maternal occupation status was associated with significantly increased volume in the fetal white matter (β, 2.07), cerebellum (β, 0.17), and brainstem (β, 0.03), and higher paternal occupation status was associated with significantly increased white matter volume (β, 1.98).
- However, higher socioeconomic status was associated with significantly decreased fetal cortical gray matter volume (mothers: β, −0.11; fathers: β, −0.10).
- Higher parental socioeconomic status was associated with increased volumes of 3 brain lobes of white matter: frontal lobe (mothers: β, 0.07; fathers: β, 0.06), parietal lobe (mothers: β, 0.07; fathers: β, 0.06), and temporal lobe (mothers: β, 0.04; fathers: β, 0.04), and maternal SES score was associated with significantly decreased volume in the occipital lobe (β, 0.02).
- Higher parental socioeconomic status was associated with decreased cortical local gyrification index (for example, for the frontal lobe, mothers: β, −1.1; fathers: β, −0.8) and sulcal depth, except for the frontal lobe (for example, for the parietal lobe, mothers: β, −9.5; fathers: β, −8.7).
"This cohort study found that parental socioeconomic status was associated with altered fetal brain morphology as measured by quantitative magnetic resonance imaging techniques, which may serve as an early biomarker associated with childhood neurodevelopmental disorders," wrote the authors.
The study titled, "Association Between Socioeconomic Status and In Utero Fetal Brain Development," is published in the journal JAMA Network Open.