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Title: Voxel-based morphometry and fMRI revealed differences in brain gray matter in breastfed and milk formula–fed children

item OU, XIAWEI - University Arkansas For Medical Sciences (UAMS)
item ANDRES, ALINE - Arkansas Children'S Nutrition Research Center (ACNC)
item PIVIK, R - Arkansas Children'S Nutrition Research Center (ACNC)
item CLEVES, MARIO - Arkansas Children'S Nutrition Research Center (ACNC)
item SNOW, J - Arkansas Children'S Nutrition Research Center (ACNC)
item DING, KHAOHUA - Vanderbilt University
item Badger, Thomas - Arkansas Children'S Nutrition Research Center (ACNC)

Submitted to: American Journal of Neuroradiology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/10/2015
Publication Date: 11/19/2015
Citation: Ou, X., Andres, A., Pivik, R.T., Cleves, M.A., Snow, J.H., Ding, Z., Badger, T.M. 2015. Voxel-based morphometry and fMRI revealed differences in brain gray matter in breastfed and milk formula–fed children. American Journal of Neuroradiology. 37:713-719. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A4593.

Interpretive Summary: Studies have shown that breastfeeding is associated with long-term benefit in children, such as higher IQ and better school performance. When breastfeeding is not possible or not chosen, milk formula is commonly used. While milk formula can provide most of the nutrients in breast milk, it was suspected that milk formula feeding may not be optimal for infants brain development. In our study, we used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods to study the brain development in healthy 8-year-old children who were either breastfed or milk formula fed as a baby. Basically we used MRI to measure the volume of different brain components, such as white matter (important for neural signal transfer) and grey matter (where the neural signal is processed). We also measured the activation in the brain by a method called functional MRI (fMRI) when the children are processing some designed language tasks. We found that children who were breastfed had better gray matter development and more brain activation when doing language related tasks. Our results suggested that what babies eat can impact their long-term development, and breastfeeding seems to be better for their brain development at 8 years of age. Our results may potentially educate parents and promote breastfeeding to benefit the health of children.

Technical Abstract: Background and Purpose: Infant diets may have significant impact on brain development in children. The aim of this study was to evaluate brain grey matter structure and function in 8-year-old children who were predominantly breastfed (BF) or fed cow’s milk formula (MF) as infants. Materials and Methods: Forty-two healthy children (BF: N=22, 10 boys and 12 girls; MF: N=20, 10 boys and 10 girls) were studied using structural MRI (3D T1-weighted imaging) and blood-oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) fMRI (while performing tasks involving visual perception and language functions). They were also administered standardized tests evaluating intelligence (Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales, RIAS) and language skills (Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals, CELF-4). Results: BF children had significantly higher (P<0.05, corrected) grey matter volume measured by voxel-based morphometry (VBM) in the left inferior temporal lobe and left superior parietal lobe regions compared to MF children. BF children showed significantly more brain activation in the right frontal and left/right temporal lobes for the fMRI when processing the perception task and in the left temporal/occipital lobe when processing the visual language task than MF children. The imaging findings were associated with significantly better performance for BF than MF children on both tasks. Conclusion: Our findings indicated greater grey matter development and better grey matter function in BF than MF children at age 8 years, and suggested that infant diets may have long-term influences on brain development in children.