Prenatal exposures and infant brain: Review of magnetic resonance imaging studies and a population description analysis

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Prenatal exposures and infant brain: Review of magnetic resonance imaging studies and a population description analysis

Brain development is most rapid during the fetal period and the first years of life. This process can be affected by many in utero factors, such as chemical exposures and maternal health characteristics. The goal of this review is twofold: to review the most recent findings on the effects of these prenatal factors on the developing brain and to qualitatively assess how those factors were generally reported in studies on infants up to 2 years of age. To capture the latest findings in the field, we searched articles from PubMed 2012 onward with search terms referring to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), brain development, and infancy. We identified 19 MRI studies focusing on the effects of prenatal environment and summarized them to highlight the recent advances in the field. We assessed population descriptions in a representative sample of 67 studies and conclude that prenatal factors that have been shown to affect brain metrics are not generally reported comprehensively. Based on our findings, we propose some improvements for population descriptions to account for plausible confounders and in time enable reliable meta‐analyses to be performed. This could help the pediatric neuroimaging field move toward more reliable identification of biomarkers for developmental outcomes and to better decipher the nuances of normal and abnormal brain development.

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