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Int J Epidemiol. 2013 Feb;42(1):150-9. doi: 10.1093/ije/dys172. Epub 2012 Nov 21.

Breastfeeding and brain structure in adolescence.

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Rotman Research Institute, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.



The purpose of this investigation was to evaluate an association between duration of exclusive breastfeeding and structure of cortical regions implicated in general intelligence.


We studied adolescents (n = 571; aged 12-18 years) participating in the Saguenay Youth Study; half of the participants were exposed to maternal cigarette smoking during pregnancy. Hierarchical linear modelling was used to assess whether breastfeeding is an important predictor of cortical thickness when other predictors, such as age, sex, parental education and exposure to maternal smoking during pregnancy, are also considered. Target cortical regions were identified using a meta-analysis of functional neuroimaging studies of cognitive abilities relevant for general intelligence.


We found that duration of exclusive breastfeeding was associated with cortical thickness in the superior and inferior parietal lobules (t = 2.31, P = 0.02). We also replicated the association between breastfeeding and general intelligence (t = 2.69, P = 0.008).


In this study, we showed that breastfeeding is associated with variations in the thickness of the parietal cortex in a community-based sample of adolescents. We also found association of breastfeeding duration with full scale and performance IQ, as observed previously.

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