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Brain Morphometry and Diminished Physical Growth in Bangladeshi Children Growing up in Extreme Poverty: a Longitudinal Study

By Ted K Turesky, Talat Shama, Shahria Hafiz Kakon, Rashidul Haque, Nazrul Islam, Amala Someshwar, William A Petri, Charles A Nelson, Nadine Gaab

Posted 25 Feb 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.02.24.432797

Diminished physical growth is a common marker of malnutrition and it affects approximately 200 million children worldwide. Despite its importance and prevalence, it is not clear whether diminished growth affects brain development and neurocognitive outcomes. Further, diminished growth is more common in areas of extreme poverty, raising the possibility that it may serve as a mechanism for previously shown links between poverty and brain development. To address these questions, 79 children growing up in an extremely poor, urban area of Bangladesh underwent MRI at 6 years. Structural brain images were submitted to Mindboggle software, a Docker-compliant and highly reproducible tool for tissue segmentation and regional estimations of volume, surface area, cortical thickness, travel depth, and mean curvature. Diminished growth predicted brain morphometry and mediated the link between poverty and brain morphometry most consistently for white matter and subcortical volumes. Meanwhile, brain volume in left pallidum and right ventral diencephalon mediated the relationship between diminished growth and full-scale IQ. These findings offer malnutrition as one possible mechanism by which poverty affects brain development and neurocognitive outcomes in areas of extreme poverty.

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