Prenatal exposure to maternal obesity is linked to neurocognitive deficits in offspring. In contrast, engaging in physical activity (PA) is beneficial for cognition and brain development. We aimed to determine if greater PA is associated with higher intelligence quotient (IQ) scores and greater brain white matter integrity in children born to mothers with a range of pre-pregnancy BMI. Ninety-nine children (59 girls) ages 7-13 years completed the study. Maternal pre-pregnancy BMI was obtained from electronic medical records. Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence was used to measure IQ. Diffusion tensor imaging was used to measure mean global fractional anisotropy (FA), a marker of white matter integrity. Time spent in moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) and vigorous PA (VPA) was assessed using 3-day PA recalls. Linear regressions were used to assess whether maternal pre-pregnancy BMI or child MVPA and VPA were associated with child IQ scores and global FA. Maternal pre-pregnancy BMI ranged from 19.0-54.0 kg/m2 (43% obese). Mean±SD child IQ was 106.4±14.0, MVPA was 132.8±95.4 min/day, and VPA was 19.0±27.1 min/day. Maternal pre-pregnancy BMI was negatively associated with child IQ scores (β=-0.31; p=0.10); this marginal association remained after adjusting for child age, sex, puberty, BMI z-score, and socioeconomic status (β=-0.42; p=0.095). MVPA was not associated with child IQ (β=2.63; p=0.16). However, children who spent more time in VPA had higher IQ scores before (β=7.05; p=0.003) and after adjusting for the same co-variates (β=5.65; p=0.024) and further adjusting for maternal pre-pregnancy BMI (β=5.01; p=0.049). Children who spent more time in VPA also had greater mean global FA (unadjusted: β=0.01; p=0.017; adjusted: β=0.01; p=0.005). These findings suggest that engaging in VPA is beneficial for cognition and white matter microstructure in children, independent of maternal pre-pregnancy BMI.


J. Alves: None. B.C. Angelo: None. S.H. Luo: None. T. Chow: None. A.G. Yunker: None. A. Xiang: None. K.A. Page: None. J. Zink: None. B.R. Belcher: None. K. Clark: None.


American Diabetes Association (1-14-ACE-36 to K.A.P.); National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (R01DK116858); National Institute of Mental Health (F31MH115640)

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