OBJECTIVES: Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) can lead to infants being born small for gestational age (SGA). SGA is associated with differences in brain anatomy and impaired cognition. We investigated learning and memory in children born SGA using neuropsychological testing and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).
STUDY DESIGN: 18 children born appropriate for gestational age (AGA) and 34 SGA born children (18 with and 16 without postnatal catch-up growth) participated in this study. All children were between 4 and 7 years old. Cognitive functioning was assessed by IQ and memory testing (Digit/Word Span and Location Learning). A newly developed fMRI picture encoding task was completed by all children in order to assess brain regions involved in memory processes.
RESULTS: Neuropsychological testing demonstrated that SGA children had IQ's within the normal range but lower than in AGA and poorer performances across measures of memory. Using fMRI, we observed memory related activity in posterior parahippocampal gyrus as well as the hippocampus proper. Additionally, activation was seen bilaterally in the prefrontal gyrus. Children born SGA showed less activation in the left parahippocampal region compared to AGA.
CONCLUSIONS: This is the first fMRI study demonstrating different brain activation patterns in 4-7 year old children born SGA, suggesting that intrauterine growth restriction continues to affect neural functioning in children later-on.