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

  • Mònica Guxens
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to Mònica Guxens, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) – Campus Mar, Carrer Dr. Aiguader 88, 08003 Barcelona, Spain.
    Affiliations
    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
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  • Małgorzata J. Lubczyńska
    Affiliations
    ISGlobal, Barcelona, Spain

    Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain

    Spanish Consortium for Research on Epidemiology and Public Health, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain
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  • Ryan L. Muetzel
    Affiliations
    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
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  • Albert Dalmau-Bueno
    Affiliations
    ISGlobal, Barcelona, Spain

    Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain

    Spanish Consortium for Research on Epidemiology and Public Health, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain
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  • Vincent W.V. Jaddoe
    Affiliations
    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
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  • Gerard Hoek
    Affiliations
    Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
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  • Aad van der Lugt
    Affiliations
    Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Frank C. Verhulst
    Affiliations
    Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology, Erasmus University Medical Centre–Sophia Children’s Hospital, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Tonya White
    Affiliations
    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
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  • Bert Brunekreef
    Affiliations
    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
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  • Henning Tiemeier
    Affiliations
    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
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  • Hanan El Marroun
    Affiliations
    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
    Search for articles by this author
Published:February 04, 2018DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2018.01.016

      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

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