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Research Project: Impact of Maternal Influence and Early Dietary Factors on Child Growth, Development, and Metabolic Health

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Title: Neural correlates of sleep quality in children: Sex-specific associations shown by brain diffusion tractography

item RAJA, RAJIKHA - University Arkansas For Medical Sciences (UAMS)
item NA, XIAOXU - University Arkansas For Medical Sciences (UAMS)
item Badger, Thomas
item OU, XIAWEI - University Arkansas For Medical Sciences (UAMS)

Submitted to: Journal of Neuroimaging
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/25/2021
Publication Date: 1/18/2022
Citation: Raja, R., Na, X., Badger, T.M., Ou, X. 2022. Neural correlates of sleep quality in children: Sex-specific associations shown by brain diffusion tractography. Journal of Neuroimaging.

Interpretive Summary: Sleep is important for children's brain development. In this study we evaluated the associations between sleep disturbances and brain white matter (a main component in the brain that transmit neural signals) development in healthy children. We utilized diffusion magnetic resonance imaging(an advanced and non-invasive imaging technique sensitive to brain white matter) to compute the white matter integrity in young children based on neural tract specific measures, and evaluated its relationships with a set of sleep disturbances scores including 8 subscores (bedtime resistance, sleep onset delay, sleep duration, sleep anxiety, night walking, parasomnias, sleep disordered breathing, and daytime sleepiness) and a composite score (total sleep disturbance score). We found significant relationships between white matter integrity in several tracts and sleep disturbance scores. The associations showed unique patterns in boys and girls involving different white matter tracts and different aspects of sleep disturbances.

Technical Abstract: Sleep quality is important for healthy growth and development of children. We aimed to identify associations between sleep disturbances in healthy children without clinical diagnosis of sleep disorders and brain white matter (WM) microstructure using an advanced diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DW­MRI) based tractography analysis, and to explore whether there are sex differences in these associations. Brain DW-MRI data were collected from sixty-two 8-year-old children (28 boys, 34 girls) whose parents also completed Children's Sleep Habits Questionnaire (CSHQ). Track-weighted imaging (TWI) measures were computed from the DW-MRI data for 37 WM tracts in each subject. Sex-specific partial correlation analyses were performed to evaluate correlations between TWI measures and a set of sleep disturbance scores derived from the CSHQ. Significant correlations (P < .05, FDR-corrected; r:.48-.67) were identified in 13 WM tracts between TWI and sleep disturbance scores. Sexually dimorphic differences in correlations between sleep disturbance scores and WM microstructure measurements were observed. Specifically, in boys, daytime sleepiness positively correlated with track­weighted mean or radial diffusivity in 10 WM tracts (bilateral arcuate fasciculus, left cingulum, right middle longitudinal fasciculus, and three bilateral segments of superior longitudinal fasciculus). In girls, total CSHQ score, night walking, or sleep onset delay negatively correlated with track-weighted fractional anisotropy or axial diffusivity in 4 WM tracts (bilateral inferior longitudinal fasciculus and uncinate fasciculus). The findings suggest that sleep disturbances without clinical diagnosis of sleep disorders are associated with lower WM microstructural integrity in children. Additionally, the associations possess unique patterns in boys and girls.