Oxygenation levels in the placenta, formed during the last three months of foetal development, are an important predictor of cortical growth (development of the outermost layer of the brain or cerebral cortex) and is likely a predictor of childhood cognition and behaviour, a study has found. Researchers had previously demonstrated a connection between placental health and childhood cognition using ultrasound. In the latest study, researchers used MRI to image placental growth. The use of MRI allows researchers to study neurodevelopmental disorders very early on in life. Poor nutrition, smoking, cocaine use, chronic hypertension, anaemia, and diabetes may result in foetal growth restriction and may cause problems for the development of the placenta. If the placenta does not develop properly, the foetal brain may not get enough oxygen and nutrients, which may affect childhood cognition and behaviour. The study revealed that a healthy placenta in the third trimester particularly impacts the cortex and the prefrontal cortex, regions of the child’s brain that are important for learning and memory.

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