Long-term impact of prenatal exposure to chemotherapy on executive functioning: An ERP study

Jeroen Blommaert, Rob Zink, Sabine Deprez, Ivan Myatchin, Patrick Dupont, Tineke Vandenbroucke, Charlotte Sleurs, Kristel Van Calsteren, Frédéric Amant, Lieven Lagae

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


OBJECTIVE: This study examines the long-term impact of prenatal exposure to chemotherapy on executive functioning and the contribution of late-prematurity to this effect, using event-related potentials.

METHODS: Mothers of the prenatal-exposed children (n = 20) were diagnosed with cancer and received chemotherapeutic treatment during pregnancy. We recruited healthy controls (n = 20) who were matched on a 1:1 ratio regarding prematurity, age and sex. We assessed executive functioning at the age of nine, using two event-related potential paradigms: a Go/Nogo paradigm to investigate processes of response inhibition and conflict monitoring, as well as a Posner paradigm to investigate spatial attention.

RESULTS: Lower potentials were found in prenatal-exposed children compared to controls in the Go/Nogo P3 and Posner positive slow wave. Moreover, prenatal-exposed children responded slower on the Posner paradigm compared to controls (p < .033), with more incorrect responses (p = .023). In the control group, the N2 Go/Nogo wave was more pronounced in children born after a longer gestation.

CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study that demonstrates an effect of prenatal exposure to chemotherapy on the development of executive functioning, not limited to the effect of late-prematurity.

SIGNIFICANCE: This study emphasizes the necessity of a long-term follow-up of prenatal-exposed children to re-inform clinical practice on the costs and benefits of late-premature induction over treatment during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1655-1664
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult
  • Antineoplastic Agents/adverse effects
  • Child
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Executive Function
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Neoplastic/drug therapy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects/etiology


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