Neonatal brain volume as a marker of differential susceptibility to parenting quality and its association with neurodevelopment across early childhood

Saara Nolvi, Jerod M. Rasmussen, Alice M. Graham, John H. Gilmore, Martin Styner, Damien A. Fair, Sonja Entringer, Pathik D. Wadhwa, Claudia Buss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Parenting quality is associated with child cognitive and executive functions (EF), which are important predictors of social and academic development. However, children vary in their susceptibility to parenting behaviors, and the neurobiological underpinnings of this susceptibility are poorly understood. In a prospective longitudinal study, we examined whether neonatal total brain volume (TBV) and subregions of interest (i.e., hippocampus (HC) and anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG)) moderate the association between maternal sensitivity and cognitive/EF development across early childhood. Neonates underwent a brain magnetic resonance imaging scan. Their cognitive performance and EF was characterized at 2.0 ± 0.1 years (N = 53) and at 4.9 ± 0.8 years (N = 36) of age. Maternal sensitivity was coded based on observation of a standardized play situation at 6-mo postpartum. Neonatal TBV moderated the association between maternal sensitivity and 2-year working memory as well as all 5-year cognitive outcomes, suggesting that the positive association between maternal sensitivity and child cognition was observed only among children with large or average but not small TBV as neonates. Similar patterns were observed for TBV-corrected HC and ACG volumes. The findings suggest that larger neonatal TBV, HC and ACG may underlie susceptibility to the environment and affect the degree to which parenting quality shapes long-term cognitive development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100826
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
Volume45
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2020

Keywords

  • Brain development
  • Cognitive development
  • Differential susceptibility
  • Executive function
  • Newborn
  • Parenting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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