Skip to main content
Long-term influence of normal variation in neonatal characteristics on human brain development
Psychiatry Publications and Presentations
  • Kristine Beate Walhovd, University of Oslo
  • Anders M. Fjell, University of Oslo
  • Timothy T. Brown, University of California at San Diego
  • Joshua M. Kuperman, University of California at San Diego
  • Yoonho Chung, University of California at San Diego
  • Donald J. Hagler, Jr., University of California at San Diego
  • J. Cooper Roddey, University of California at San Diego
  • Matthew Erhart, University of California at San Diego
  • Connor McCabe, University of California at San Diego
  • Natacha Akshoomoff, University of California at San Diego
  • David G. Amaral, University of California
  • Cinnamon S. Bloss, Scripps Translational Science Institute
  • Ondrej Libiger, Scripps Translational Science Institute
  • Nicholas J. Schork, Scripps Translational Science Institute
  • Burcu F. Darst, Scripps Translational Science Institute
  • B. J. Casey, Kennedy Krieger Institute
  • Linda Chang, University of Hawaii
  • Thomas M. Ernst, University of Hawaii
  • Jean A. Frazier, University of Massachusetts Medical School
  • Jeffrey R. Gruen, Yale University School of Medicine
  • Walter E. Kaufmann, Harvard Medical School
  • Sarah S. Murray, Scripps Translational Science Institute
  • Peter van Zijl, University of California at San Diego
  • Stewart Mostofsky, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Anders Dale, Massachusetts General Hospital
UMMS Affiliation
Department of Psychiatry
Document Type
Medical Subject Headings
Adolescent; Age Factors; Birth Weight; Brain; Child; Female; Fetal Development; Humans; Image Processing, Computer-Assisted; Infant, Newborn; Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Male; Organ Size; Regression Analysis; Sex Factors; Socioeconomic Factors; United States; Young Adult
It is now recognized that a number of cognitive, behavioral, and mental health outcomes across the lifespan can be traced to fetal development. Although the direct mediation is unknown, the substantial variance in fetal growth, most commonly indexed by birth weight, may affect lifespan brain development. We investigated effects of normal variance in birth weight on MRI-derived measures of brain development in 628 healthy children, adolescents, and young adults in the large-scale multicenter Pediatric Imaging, Neurocognition, and Genetics study. This heterogeneous sample was recruited through geographically dispersed sites in the United States. The influence of birth weight on cortical thickness, surface area, and striatal and total brain volumes was investigated, controlling for variance in age, sex, household income, and genetic ancestry factors. Birth weight was found to exert robust positive effects on regional cortical surface area in multiple regions as well as total brain and caudate volumes. These effects were continuous across birth weight ranges and ages and were not confined to subsets of the sample. The findings show that (i) aspects of later child and adolescent brain development are influenced at birth and (ii) relatively small differences in birth weight across groups and conditions typically compared in neuropsychiatric research (e.g., Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, schizophrenia, and personality disorders) may influence group differences observed in brain parameters of interest at a later stage in life. These findings should serve to increase our attention to early influences.

Citation: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Dec 4;109(49):20089-94. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1208180109. Link to article on publisher's site

Publisher PDF posted as allowed by the publisher's author rights policy at

Related Resources
Link to Article in PubMed
PubMed ID
Citation Information
Kristine Beate Walhovd, Anders M. Fjell, Timothy T. Brown, Joshua M. Kuperman, et al.. "Long-term influence of normal variation in neonatal characteristics on human brain development" Vol. 109 Iss. 49 (2012) ISSN: 0027-8424 (Linking)
Available at: