Food and Behaviour Research

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Assessing infant cognitive development after prenatal iodine supplementation.

Bell MA, Ross AP, Goodman G. (2016) Am J Clin Nutr. 104  

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Little information is available on infant behavioral development outcomes of prenatal iodine supplementation in regions of mild to moderate iodine deficiency. Studies performed to date, all of which relied on global developmental assessments, have yielded inconsistent findings with regard to psychomotor development, negative findings with regard to mental development, and no information as to the development of specific cognitive functions. Our review of these studies leads us to suspect that the use of global developmental assessments might partially explain the negative and inconsistent findings. To identify cognitive processes that might be sensitive to prenatal iodine supplementation, we examined the timing of thyroid hormone action on specific brain systems. The development of infant visual attention is sensitive to thyroid hormone during the early prenatal period, when the fetus is entirely dependent on maternal thyroid hormone. For this reason, infant visual attention has the potential to be a sensitive measure of infant outcomes in prenatal iodine supplementation studies. We suggest the assessment of infant visual attention, with follow-up examination of childhood executive functions, as a means of capturing the effects of maternal iodine deficiency and prenatal iodine supplementation on specific cognitive processes. In particular, we propose comparison of infant performance on global developmental tests and specialized tests of visual attention in pilot trials of prenatal iodine supplementation in regions of mild to moderate iodine deficiency. Only by comparing the 2 types of tests side by side will it be possible to establish whether the use of a sensitive measure of infant visual attention will increase the reliability of such supplementation studies. Recognizing that exposure misclassification may also provide a partial explanation for the inconsistent neurodevelopmental outcomes in previous studies, we suggest that urinary iodine concentration or creatinine-corrected iodine excretion be monitored regularly in such trials throughout the prenatal period.