Norr M, Hect J, Lenniger C, Van del Heuvel M, Thomason M (2020) Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.13301
The present study examines this possibility at the level of macrocircuitry in the human fetal brain. Using a data‐driven strategy for parcellating the brain into subnetworks, we test whether MRI functional connectivity within or between fetal neural subnetworks varies with maternal prenatal BMI in 109 fetuses between the ages of 26 and 39weeks.
We discovered that strength of connectivity between two subnetworks, left anterior insula/inferior frontal gyrus (aIN/IFG) and bilateral prefrontal cortex (PFC), varied with maternal BMI. At the level of individual aIN/IFG‐PFC connections, we observed both increased and decreased between‐network connectivity with a tendency for increased within‐hemisphere connectivity and reduced cross‐hemisphere connectivity in higher BMI pregnancies. Maternal BMI was not associated with global differences in network topography based on network‐based statistical analyses.
Overall effects were localized in regions that will later support behavioral regulation and integrative processes, regions commonly associated with obesity‐related deficits. By establishing onset in neural differences prior to birth, this study supports a model in which maternal BMI‐related risk is associated with fetal connectome‐level brain organization with implications for offspring long‐term cognitive development and mental health.