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Biol Psychiatry. 2018 Aug 15;84(4):295-303. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2018.01.016. Epub 2018 Jan 31.

Air Pollution Exposure During Fetal Life, Brain Morphology, and Cognitive Function in School-Age Children.

Author information

1
ISGlobal, Barcelona, Spain; Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain; Spanish Consortium for Research on Epidemiology and Public Health, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain; Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology, Erasmus University Medical Centre-Sophia Children's Hospital, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Electronic address: monica.guxens@isglobal.org.
2
ISGlobal, Barcelona, Spain; Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain; Spanish Consortium for Research on Epidemiology and Public Health, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain.
3
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology, Erasmus University Medical Centre-Sophia Children's Hospital, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Generation R Study Group, Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
4
Department of Pediatrics, Erasmus University Medical Centre-Sophia Children's Hospital, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Generation R Study Group, Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
5
Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
6
Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
7
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology, Erasmus University Medical Centre-Sophia Children's Hospital, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
8
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology, Erasmus University Medical Centre-Sophia Children's Hospital, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
9
Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands; Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
10
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology, Erasmus University Medical Centre-Sophia Children's Hospital, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Air pollution exposure during fetal life has been related to impaired child neurodevelopment, but it is unclear if brain structural alterations underlie this association. The authors assessed whether air pollution exposure during fetal life alters brain morphology and whether these alterations mediate the association between air pollution exposure during fetal life and cognitive function in school-age children.

METHODS:

We used data from a population-based birth cohort set up in Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2002-2006). Residential levels of air pollution during the entire fetal period were calculated using land-use regression models. Structural neuroimaging and cognitive function were performed at 6 to 10 years of age (n = 783). Models were adjusted for several socioeconomic and lifestyle characteristics.

RESULTS:

Mean fine particle levels were 20.2 μg/m3 (range, 16.8-28.1 μg/m3). Children exposed to higher particulate matter levels during fetal life had thinner cortex in several brain regions of both hemispheres (e.g., cerebral cortex of the precuneus region in the right hemisphere was 0.045 mm thinner (95% confidence interval, 0.028-0.062) for each 5-μg/m3 increase in fine particles). The reduced cerebral cortex in precuneus and rostral middle frontal regions partially mediated the association between exposure to fine particles and impaired inhibitory control. Air pollution exposure was not associated with global brain volumes.

CONCLUSIONS:

Exposure to fine particles during fetal life was related to child brain structural alterations of the cerebral cortex, and these alterations partially mediated the association between exposure to fine particles during fetal life and impaired child inhibitory control. Such cognitive impairment at early ages could have significant long-term consequences.

KEYWORDS:

Child development; Cognition; Cohort studies; Environmental pollution; Neuroimaging; Particulate matter

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