Poster E27, Monday, March 26, 2:30-4:30 pm, Exhibit Hall C
Differential Effects of Maternal Exposures in Early Life on Working Memory Versus Inhibitory Control in Preschool-Aged Children
Cassandra Svelnys1, Michaela Gusman1, Michelle Huezo1, Andreina Tuccella1, Rosalind J. Wright3,4,5, Michelle Bosquet Enlow1,2; 1Boston Children's Hospital, 2Harvard Medical School, 3Kravis Children's Hospital, New York, NY, 4Mindich Child Health & Development Institute, New York, NY, 5Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY
Mothers are a significant source of environmental exposures that shape child brain development. Maternal lifetime exposure to stress may program key biological systems that impact fetal brain development during pregnancy (e.g., hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis). In infancy, maternal caregiving behaviors help shape the development of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral regulatory systems. These early influences have implications for the development of the child’s prefrontal cortex (PFC) and, consequently, executive functioning abilities. The current study examined associations of maternal lifetime stress exposures and caregiving behaviors during infancy with child executive functioning (N=53). During pregnancy, mothers completed interviews assessing lifetime stress exposures. At 6 months, mothers and infants completed a free play task during which maternal caregiving behaviors were assessed. At 3.5 years, children completed working memory (Nebraska Barnyard) and inhibitory control (go/no-go) tasks. Child working memory performance was negatively correlated with maternal lifetime stress exposures (rs=-.49, p<.001) and history of physical abuse in childhood (rs=-.36, p=.015) but not with stress during pregnancy (rs=-.25, p=.075). Child working memory was also positively associated with maternal cognitive support in infancy (rs=.31, p=.039). Child inhibitory control was not associated with maternal stress measures but was associated with greater maternal history of emotional support in childhood (rs=.36, p=.021) and maternal emotional support in infancy (rs=.38, p=.015). The findings suggest that prenatal and infancy exposures influence child PFC functioning and that different domains of PFC functioning have distinct developmental pathways. These findings have implications for the development of targeted interventions to optimize PFC development in early life.
Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Development & aging