Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 August 2018
Functional circuits of the human brain emerge and change dramatically over the second half of gestation. It is possible that variation in neural functional system connectivity in utero predicts individual differences in infant behavioral development, but this possibility has yet to be examined. The current study examines the association between fetal sensorimotor brain system functional connectivity and infant postnatal motor ability. Resting-state functional connectivity data was obtained in 96 healthy human fetuses during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Infant motor ability was measured 7 months after birth using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development. Increased connectivity between the emerging motor network and regions of the prefrontal cortex, temporal lobes, posterior cingulate, and supplementary motor regions was observed in infants that showed more mature motor functions. In addition, females demonstrated stronger fetal-brain to infant-behavior associations. These observations extend prior longitudinal research back into prenatal brain development and raise exciting new ideas about the advent of risk and the ontogeny of early sex differences.
This project was supported by awards from the National Institutes of Health, MH110793 and ES026022 (to M.E.T.), and by a NARSAD Young Investigator Award. This research was also supported, in part, by the Perinatology Research Branch, Division of Obstetrics and Maternal–Fetal Medicine, Division of Intramural Research, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services (NICHD/NIH/DHHS), and, in part, with federal funds from NICHD/NIH/DHHS under Contract No. HHSN275201300006C. Support was also provided by NIAAA T32 Fellowship 2T32AA007477-24A1 in the Addiction Center, Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan (to R.W.). The authors thank Pavan Jella, Sophia Neuenfeldt, Toni Lewis, Tamara Qawasmeh, Fatimah Alismail, and Nada Alrajhi for their assistance in data acquisition and analyses. The authors also thank participant families who generously shared their time.