Maternal IL-6 during pregnancy can be estimated from newborn brain connectivity and predicts future working memory in offspring

Nat Neurosci. 2018 May;21(5):765-772. doi: 10.1038/s41593-018-0128-y. Epub 2018 Apr 9.


Several lines of evidence support the link between maternal inflammation during pregnancy and increased likelihood of neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders in offspring. This longitudinal study seeks to advance understanding regarding implications of systemic maternal inflammation during pregnancy, indexed by plasma interleukin-6 (IL-6) concentrations, for large-scale brain system development and emerging executive function skills in offspring. We assessed maternal IL-6 during pregnancy, functional magnetic resonance imaging acquired in neonates, and working memory (an important component of executive function) at 2 years of age. Functional connectivity within and between multiple neonatal brain networks can be modeled to estimate maternal IL-6 concentrations during pregnancy. Brain regions heavily weighted in these models overlap substantially with those supporting working memory in a large meta-analysis. Maternal IL-6 also directly accounts for a portion of the variance of working memory at 2 years of age. Findings highlight the association of maternal inflammation during pregnancy with the developing functional architecture of the brain and emerging executive function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Child Development / physiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emotions
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interleukin-6 / analysis
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Pregnancy
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology


  • IL6 protein, human
  • Interleukin-6