Objective: To assess whether maternal choline decreases effects of mothers' infections on fetal brain circuit development and on expression of infant behavior at 1 year of age.
Study design: A cross-sectional study was conducted in a public hospital obstetrics and midwifery service, with prenatal assessments of maternal infection, C-reactive protein, and choline level and postnatal assessments of cerebral neuronal inhibition in 162 newborns. At 1 year, 136 parents completed reports of their child's behavior.
Results: Maternal infection at 16 weeks of gestation, experienced by 41% of mothers, raised mean maternal C-reactive protein (d' = 0.47, P = .002) and decreased the development of cerebral inhibition of auditory response at 1 month of age (d' = 0.39, P < .001). Decreased newborn cerebral inhibition manifested as decreased behavioral self-regulation at 1 year. Greater choline levels in mothers with infections were associated with improved newborn inhibition of auditory cerebral response, mitigating the effect of infection (β = -0.34 [95% CI, -5.35 to -0.14], P = .002). At 1 year of age, children of mothers with infection and greater gestational choline levels had improved development of self-regulation, approaching the level of children of mothers without infection (β = 0.29 [95% CI 0.05-0.54], P = .03).
Conclusions: Greater maternal choline, recommended by the American Medical Association as a prenatal supplement, is associated with greater self-regulation among infants who experienced common maternal infections during gestation. Behavioral problems with diminished self-regulation often lead to referrals to pediatricians and might lead to later mental illness.
Keywords: child behavior; choline; fetal development; pregnancy exposure delayed effects; receptors nicotinic; sensory gating.
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Conflict of interest statement
Conflict of interest: The funders had no role in (1) study design; (2) the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; (3) the writing of the report; and (4) the decision to submit the paper for publication. The authors have no conflicts of interest with commercial or other interests.
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