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Age and sex differences in brain metabolite concentrations in early life are not well under- stood. We examined the associations of age and sex with brain metabolite levels in healthy neonates, and investigated the associations between neonatal brain metabolite concentrations and developmental outcomes. Forty-one infants (36–42 gestational weeks at birth; 39% female) of predominantly Hispanic/Latina mothers (mean 18 years of age) underwent MRI scanning approximately two weeks after birth. Multiplanar chemical shift imaging was used to obtain voxel-wise maps of N-acetylaspartate (NAA), creatine, and choline concentrations across the brain. The Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, a measure of cognitive, language, and motor skills, and mobile conjugate reinforcement paradigm, a measure of learning and memory, were administered at 4 months of age. Findings indicated that postmenstrual age correlated positively with NAA concentrations in multiple subcortical and white matter regions. Creatine and choline concentrations showed similar but less pronounced age related increases. Females compared with males had higher metabolite levels in white matter and subcortical gray matter. Neonatal NAA concentrations were positively associated with learning and negatively associated with memory at 4 months. Age-related increases in NAA, creatine, and choline suggest rapid development of neuronal viability, cel- lular energy metabolism, and cell membrane turnover, respectively, during early life. Females may undergo earlier and more rapid regional developmental increases in the density of viable neurons compared to males.


This work was originally published in PLoS ONE, available at pone.0243255.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.



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