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Maternal Dietary Choline Status Influences Brain Grey and White Matter Development in Young Pigs

Mudd AT, Getty CM, Dilger RN (2018) Current Developments in Nutrition 2018 March nzy015 

Web URL: Read the research on academic.oup here



Choline is an essential nutrient that is pivotal to proper brain development. Research in animal models suggests that perinatal choline deficiency influences neuron development in the hippocampus and cortex, yet these observations require invasive techniques.


This study aimed to characterize the effects of perinatal choline deficiency on grey and white matter development using non-invasive neuroimaging techniques in the young pig.


During the last 64 days of the 114-day gestation period Yorkshire sows were provided a choline-sufficient (CS) or choline-deficient (CD) diet, analyzed to contain 1,214 mg or 483 mg total choline/kg diet, respectively. Upon farrowing, pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus) were allowed colostrum consumption for up to 48 hours, were further stratified into postnatal treatment groups, and were provided either CS or CD milk replacers, analyzed to contain 1,591 mg or 518 mg total choline/kg diet, respectively, for 28 days. At 30 days of age, pigs were subjected to magnetic resonance imaging procedures to assess brain development. Grey and white matter development was assessed through voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS), to assess the effects of prenatal and postnatal dietary choline status.


Voxel-based morphometry analysis indicated prenatally CS pigs exhibited increased (< 0.01) grey matter in the left and right cortex compared with prenatally CD pigs. Analysis of white matter indicated prenatally CS pigs exhibited increased (< 0.01) white matter in the internal capsule, putamen-globus pallidus, and right cortex compared with prenatally CD pigs. No postnatal effects (> 0.05) of choline status were noted for VBM analyses of grey and white matter. Tract-based spatial statistics also revealed no significant effects (> 0.05) of prenatal or postnatal choline status for diffusion values along white matter tracts.


Observations from this study suggest that prenatal choline deficiency results in altered cortical grey matter and reduced white matter in the internal capsule and putamen of young pigs. Using non-invasive neuroimaging techniques, results from our study indicate prenatal choline deficiency greatly alters grey and white matter development in the pig, thereby providing a translational assessment that may be used in clinical populations.


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