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Visual evoked potentials in offspring born to mothers with overweight, obesity and gestational diabetes

Torres-Espínola FJ, Berglund SK, García S, Pérez-García M, Catena A, Rueda R, Sáez JA, Campoy C; PREOBE team (2018) PLoS One.  2018 Sep 12;13(9) :e0203754. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0203754. eCollection 2018. 

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Overweight, obesity, and gestational diabetes (GD) during pregnancy may negatively affect neurodevelopment in the offspring. However, the mechanisms are unclear and objective measures of neurodevelopment in infancy are scarce. We hypothesized that these maternal metabolic pathologies impair cortical visual evoked potentials (cVEPs), a proxy for visual and neuronal maturity.


The PREOBE study included 331 pregnant women stratified into four groups; normal weight (controls), overweight, obesity, and GD (the latter including mothers with normal weight, overweight and obesity). In a subsample of the offspring at 3 months (n = 157) and at 18 months (n = 136), we assessed the latencies and amplitudes of the P100 wave from cVEPs and calculated visual acuity.


At 3 months of age, visual acuity was significantly poorer in offspring born to GD mothers. At 18 months of age, there were no differences in visual acuity but infants born to GD mothers had significantly longer latencies of cVEPs when measured at 15', and 30' of arc. The group differences at 30' remained significant after confounder adjustment (mean [SD] 121.0 [16.0] vs. 112.6 [7.6] ms in controls, p = 0.007) and the most prolonged latencies were observed in offspring to GD mothers with concurrent overweight (128.9 [26.9] ms, p = 0.002) and obesity (118.5 [5.1] ms, p = 0.020).


Infants born to mothers with GD, particularly those with concurrent overweight or obesity, have prolonged latencies of visual evoked potentials at 18 months of age, suggesting that this maternal metabolic profile have a long lasting, non-optimal, effect on infants´ brain development.