Long-term effects of prenatal infection on the human brain: a prospective multimodal neuroimaging study

Anna Suleri, Charlotte Cecil, Anna Sophie Rommel, Manon Hillegers, Tonya White, Lot D. de Witte, Ryan L. Muetzel, Veerle Bergink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

There is convincing evidence from rodent studies suggesting that prenatal infections affect the offspring’s brain, but evidence in humans is limited. Here, we assessed the occurrence of common infections during each trimester of pregnancy and examined associations with brain outcomes in adolescent offspring. Our study was embedded in the Generation R Study, a large-scale sociodemographically diverse prospective birth cohort. We included 1094 mother-child dyads and investigated brain morphology (structural MRI), white matter microstructure (DTI), and functional connectivity (functional MRI), as outcomes at the age of 14. We focused on both global and focal regions. To define prenatal infections, we composed a score based on the number and type of infections during each trimester of pregnancy. Models were adjusted for several confounders. We found that prenatal infection was negatively associated with cerebral white matter volume (B = −0.069, 95% CI −0.123 to −0.015, p = 0.011), and we found an association between higher prenatal infection scores and smaller volumes of several frontotemporal regions of the brain. After multiple testing correction, we only observed an association between prenatal infections and the caudal anterior cingulate volume (B = −0.104, 95% CI −0.164 to −0.045, p < 0.001). We did not observe effects of prenatal infection on other measures of adolescent brain morphology, white matter microstructure, or functional connectivity, which is reassuring. Our results show potential regions of interest in the brain for future studies; data on the effect of severe prenatal infections on the offspring’s brain in humans are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number306
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2023

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