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On the relationship between head circumference, brain size, prenatal long-chain PUFA/5-methyltetrahydrofolate supplementation and cognitive abilities during childhood.

  • Catena, Andrés1
  • Martínez-Zaldívar, Cristina2
  • Diaz-Piedra, Carolina1
  • Torres-Espínola, Francisco J2
  • Brandi, Pilar2
  • Pérez-García, Miguel1
  • Decsi, Tamás3
  • Koletzko, Berthold4
  • Campoy, Cristina2, 5
  • 1 Mind, Brain, and Behavior Research Center, University of Granada. 18011 Granada, Spain. , (Spain)
  • 2 EURISTIKOS Excellence Centre for Paediatric Research, University of Granada. 18016 Granada, Spain. , (Spain)
  • 3 Department of Paediatrics, University of Pécs, H-7624 Pécs, Hungary. , (Hungary)
  • 4 Dr. von Hauner Children's Hospital, Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich Medical Centre, D-80337 München, Germany. , (Germany)
  • 5 Department of Paediatrics, University of Granada, 18071 Granada, Spain. , (Spain)
Published Article
British Journal Of Nutrition
Cambridge University Press
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2019
DOI: 10.1017/S0007114516004281
PMID: 28351446


Head circumference in infants has been reported to predict brain size, total grey matter volume (GMV) and neurocognitive development. However, it is unknown whether it has predictive value on regional and subcortical brain volumes. We aimed to explore the relationship between several head circumference measurements since birth and distributions of GMV and subcortical volumes at later childhood. We examined seventy-four, Caucasian, singleton, term-born infants born to mothers randomised to receive fish oil and/or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate or placebo prenatal supplementation. We assessed head circumference at birth and at 4 and 10 years of age and cognitive abilities at 7 years of age. We obtained brain MRI at 10 years of age, on which we performed voxel-based morphometry, cortical surface extraction and subcortical segmentation. Analyses were controlled for sex, age, height, weight, family status, laterality and total intracranial volume. Prenatal supplementation did not affect head circumference at any age, cognitive abilities or total brain volumes. Head circumference at 4 years presented the highest correlation with total GMV, white matter volume and brain surface area, and was also strongly associated with GMV of frontal, temporal and occipital areas, as well as with caudate nucleus, globus pallidus, putamen and thalamus volumes. As relationships between brain volumes in childhood and several outcomes extend into adulthood, we have found that ages between 0 and 4 years as the optimal time for brain growth; postnatal factors might have the most relevant impact on structural maturation of certain cortical areas and subcortical nuclei, independent of prenatal supplementation.

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