Proper prenatal and postnatal nutrition is essential for optimal brain development and function. The early use of event-related potentials enables neuroscientists to study the development of cognitive function from birth and to evaluate the role of specific nutrients in development. Perinatal iron deficiency occurs in severely affected infants of diabetic mothers. In animal models, severe perinatal iron deficiency targets the explicit memory system of the brain. Cross-sectional ERP studies have shown that infants of diabetic mothers have impairments in recognition memory from birth through 8 months of age. The purpose of this study was to evaluate longitudinal development of recognition memory using ERPs in infants of diabetic mothers compared with control infants. Infants of diabetic mothers were divided into high and low risk status based upon their birth weights and iron status and compared with healthy control infants. Infants were tested in the newborn period for auditory recognition memory, at 6 months for visual recognition memory and at 8 months for cross modal memory. ERPs were evaluated for developmental changes in the slow waves that are thought to reflect memory and the Nc component that is thought to reflect attention. The results of the study showed differences in development between the IDMs and control infants in the development of the slow waves over the left anterior temporal leads and age-related patterns of development in the NC component. These results are consistent with animal models showing that perinatal iron deficiency affects the development of the memory networks of the brain. This study highlights the value of using ERPs to translate basic science information obtained from animal models to the development of the human infant.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We wish to thank Neely Miller for her assistance with data analysis for this study. We thank the parents and infants for their ongoing participation in this study. The study was funded by National Institutes of Health grants NS32755 and HD29421. Participation in this symposium. was supported by USDA CRIS 6251-51000-002-03S.