Prenatal neural origins of infant motor development: Associations between fetal brain and infant motor development

Moriah E. Thomason*, Jasmine Hect, Rebecca Waller, Janessa H. Manning, Ann M. Stacks, Marjorie Beeghly, Jordan L. Boeve, Kristyn Wong, M.I. van den Heuvel, Edgar Hernandez-Andrade, Sonia S. Hassan, Roberto Romero

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Functional circuits of the human brain emerge and change dramatically over the second half of gestation. It is possible that variation in neural functional system connectivity in utero predicts individual differences in infant behavioral development, but this possibility has yet to be examined. The current study examines the association between fetal sensorimotor brain system functional connectivity and infant postnatal motor ability. Resting-state functional connectivity data was obtained in 96 healthy human fetuses during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Infant motor ability was measured 7 months after birth using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development. Increased connectivity between the emerging motor network and regions of the prefrontal cortex, temporal lobes, posterior cingulate, and supplementary motor regions was observed in infants that showed more mature motor functions. In addition, females demonstrated stronger fetal-brain to infant-behavior associations. These observations extend prior longitudinal research back into prenatal brain development and raise exciting new ideas about the advent of risk and the ontogeny of early sex differences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-772
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Brain/embryology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Child Development
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli/embryology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex/embryology
  • Nerve Net/embryology
  • Neural Pathways/embryology
  • Prefrontal Cortex/embryology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Psychomotor Disorders/embryology
  • Reference Values
  • Sensorimotor Cortex/embryology
  • Sex Factors
  • Temporal Lobe/embryology


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