The aim of the present research was to investigate the impact of a potentially adverse fetal environment, diabetes during pregnancy, on neurobehavioral functioning of five-year-old children. Based on prior human studies of infants of diabetic mothers and animal models assessing potential fetal brain insults, we hypothesized that, as a result of exposure to an adverse pre-natal milieu that includes chronic hypoxia, intermittent acidosis and ketosis, hyperglycemia and reactive hypoglycemia, and iron deficiency, children born to diabetic mothers would demonstrate lasting deficits in memory performance. Neurobehavioral functioning, including memory, was examined in 15 children of diabetic mothers (7 female, 8 male; mean age 5.20 years, SD .16) and 15 typically developing children (7 female, 8 male; mean age 5.09 years, SD .16). The children were born to relatively low-risk diabetic mothers, although they tended to demonstrate lower newborn iron stores (mean ferritin concentration 64mg/L, SD 56), slightly shorter gestational age (mean 38 weeks, SD 1.5), and greater standardized birth weight scores (mean 1.1, SD 1.2) compared to control children. Performance of children of diabetic mothers (CDMs) was comparable to that of control children on neurobehavioral tests of psychomotor speed, fine motor accuracy, frontal lobe problem solving, planning, and spatial memory, as well as temporal lobe recognition memory. Newborn ferritin levels in CDMs did not correlate with performance on frontal or temporal lobe tasks. These findings suggest that low-risk children born to diabetic mothers with good glycemic control during pregnancy demonstrate typical long-term neurocognitive development.
Keywords: neurocognitive development, neonatal iron deficiency, memory development, brain development, CANTAB