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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Little Rock, Arkansas » Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #397550

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

Location: Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center

Title: Mother's Physical Activity during Pregnancy and Newborn's Brain Cortical Development

Author
item NA, XIAOXU - University Arkansas For Medical Sciences (UAMS)
item RAJA, RAJIKHA - University Arkansas For Medical Sciences (UAMS)
item PHELAN, NATALIE - University Arkansas For Medical Sciences (UAMS)
item TADROS, MARINNA - University Arkansas For Medical Sciences (UAMS)
item MOORE, ALEXANDRA - University Arkansas For Medical Sciences (UAMS)
item WU, ZHENGWANG - University Of North Carolina
item WANG, LI - University Of North Carolina
item LI, GANG - University Of North Carolina
item GLASIER, CHARLES - University Arkansas For Medical Sciences (UAMS)
item RAMAKRISHNAIAH, RAGHU - University Arkansas For Medical Sciences (UAMS)
item ANDRES, ALINE - University Arkansas For Medical Sciences (UAMS)
item OU, XIAWEI - University Arkansas For Medical Sciences (UAMS)

Submitted to: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/18/2022
Publication Date: 9/6/2022
Citation: Na, X., Raja, R., Phelan, N.E., Tadros, M.R., Moore, A., Wu, Z., Wang, L., Li, G., Glasier, C.M., Ramakrishnaiah, R.R., Andres, A., Ou, X. 2022. Mother's Physical Activity during Pregnancy and Newborn's Brain Cortical Development. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2022.943341.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2022.943341

Interpretive Summary: Being physically active during uncomplicated pregnancy is safe and desirable for pregnant women. There have been some studies suggesting that exercise during pregnancy may be beneficial for long-term neurodevelopment of offspring, but it is unclear why there would be such effects. In this study, we evaluated whether physical activity during different stages of pregnancy is associated with fetal brain cortical development which were assessed by an MRI examination of the brain soon after birth. We found that physical activity measures of pregnant women such as total activity count every day and daily time spent in moderate activity during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy correlated with newborn's brain cortical thickness in several regions. Higher physical activity was associated with higher cortical thickness, which indicated better brain development during fetal stage. Our findings suggest that exercise during pregnancy may promote fetal brain development, and in term, this could lead to better neurodevelopmental outcomes in children.

Technical Abstract: Background: Physical activity is known to improve mental health, and is regarded as safe and desirable for uncomplicated pregnancy. In this novel study, we aim to evaluate whether there are associations between maternal physical activity during pregnancy and neonatal brain cortical development. Methods: Forty-four mother/newborn dyads were included in this longitudinal study. Healthy pregnant women were recruited and their physical activity throughout pregnancy were documented using accelerometers worn for 3-7 days for each of the 6 time points at 4-10, ~12, ~18, ~24, ~30, and ~36 weeks of pregnancy. Average daily total steps and daily total activity count as well as daily minutes spent in sedentary/light/moderate/vigorous activity modes were extracted from the accelerometers for each time point. At ~2 weeks of postnatal age, their newborns underwent an MRI examination of the brain without sedation, and 3D T1-weighted brain structural images were post-processed by the iBEAT2.0 software utilizing advanced deep learning approaches. Cortical surface maps were reconstructed from the segmented brain images and parcellated to 34 regions in each brain hemisphere, and mean cortical thickness for each region was computed for partial correlation analyses with physical activity measures, with appropriate multiple comparison corrections and potential confounders controlled. Results: At 4-10 weeks of pregnancy, mother’s daily total activity count positively correlated (FDR corrected P=0.05) with newborn’s cortical thickness in the left caudal middle frontal gyrus (rho=0.48, P=0.04), right medial orbital frontal gyrus (rho=0.48, P=0.04), and right transverse temporal gyrus (rho=0.48, P=0.04); mother’s daily time in moderate activity mode positively correlated with newborn’s cortical thickness in the right transverse temporal gyrus (rho=0.53, P=0.03). At ~24 weeks of pregnancy, mother’s daily total activity count positively correlated (FDR corrected P=0.05) with newborn’s cortical thickness in the left (rho=0.56, P=0.02) and right isthmus cingulate gyrus (rho=0.50, P=0.05). Conclusions: We identified significant relationships between physical activity in healthy pregnant women during the 1st and 2nd trimester and brain cortical development in newborns. Higher maternal physical activity level is associated with greater neonatal brain cortical thickness, presumably indicating better cortical development.