Maternal preconception circulating blood biomarker mixtures, child behavioural symptom scores and the potential mediating role of neonatal brain microstructure: the S-PRESTO cohort

Transl Psychiatry. 2023 Feb 3;13(1):38. doi: 10.1038/s41398-023-02332-6.


Human brain development starts in the embryonic period. Maternal preconception nutrition and nutrient availability to the embryo may influence brain development at this critical period following conception and early cellular differentiation, thereby affecting offspring neurodevelopmental and behavioural disorder risk. However, studying this is challenging due to difficulties in characterizing preconception nutritional status and few studies have objective neurodevelopmental imaging measures in children. We investigated the associations of maternal preconception circulating blood nutrient-related biomarker mixtures (~15 weeks before conception) with child behavioural symptoms (Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL), aged 3 years) within the Singapore Preconception Study of Long-Term Maternal and Child Outcomes (S-PRESTO) study. The CBCL preschool form evaluates child behaviours based on syndrome scales and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) oriented scales. These scales consist of internalizing problems, externalizing problems, anxiety problems, pervasive developmental problems, oppositional defiant, etc. We applied data-driven clustering and a method for modelling mixtures (Bayesian kernel machine regression, BKMR) to account for complex, non-linear dependencies between 67 biomarkers. We used effect decomposition analyses to explore the potential mediating role of neonatal (week 1) brain microstructure, specifically orientation dispersion indices (ODI) of 49 cortical and subcortical grey matter regions. We found that higher levels of a nutrient cluster including thiamine, thiamine monophosphate (TMP), pyridoxal phosphate, pyridoxic acid, and pyridoxal were associated with a higher CBCL score for internalizing problems (posterior inclusion probability (PIP) = 0.768). Specifically, thiamine independently influenced CBCL (Conditional PIP = 0.775). Higher maternal preconception thiamine level was also associated with a lower right subthalamic nucleus ODI (P-value = 0.01) while a lower right subthalamic nucleus ODI was associated with higher CBCL scores for multiple domains (P-value < 0.05). One potential mechanism is the suboptimal metabolism of free thiamine to active vitamin B1, but additional follow-up and replication studies in other cohorts are needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem
  • Behavioral Symptoms*
  • Biomarkers
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mothers*
  • Thiamine


  • Biomarkers
  • Thiamine