Exposure to phthalate, a chemical commonly used in packaging and consumer products, interferes with normal hormonal activity and human and animal studies. Researchers have now found evidence that pregnant women’s exposure to phthalate may be linked to altered cognitive abnormalities in their babies.
Information processing is slower in infants with higher platelet exposure levels than most findings, and men are more likely to be affected by the sequence of information provided by the chemical and the infant.
Reported in the journal Neurobiology, This study is part of the Illinois Child Development Study, which tracks the effects of hormones that interfere with the physical and behavioral development of children from birth to mid-childhood.
Now in its seventh year, hundreds of IKIDS have participated and are exploring the chemical exposure of pregnant women and their children to developmental outcomes. Susan Shunts, a neurobiologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and professor of comparative biology, is the lead researcher in the study. She is a P member of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, which runs the IKIDS program in Illinois.
IKIDS is part of a larger program funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Impact Program for Child Health Recovery. Monitors the effects of prenatal chemical exposure and maternal psychosocial stress on the growth and development of children over time. We measure many birthmarks, including birth weight and gestational age. By studying the behavior of infants, we assess their cognition. This allows us to take measurements of working memory, attention, and information processing speed. “
Susan Shunts, a neuroscientist, and Emerita, a professor of comparative biology at Urbana-Champaign University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The researchers analyzed the metabolism of three phthalates commonly found in urine samples collected regularly from pregnant women. Chemical exposure data were used with the assessment of female infants at 7.5 months of age.
The researchers used a well-established method of understanding the logic of young children to express themselves verbally: babies usually spend a lot of time looking at unfamiliar or unexpected images or events.
In several laboratory experiments, the team used infrared eye trackers to track each baby’s gaze. With the baby sitting on the caregiver’s lap, the researchers first introduced two similar images of the baby ‘s face. Once the baby learned to recognize the face, the researchers showed that the face was paired with an unfamiliar face.
“In repeated trials, half of the 244 infants tested showed that one set of faces was familiar and half learned to recognize a different set of faces,” Shunts said. “By analyzing facial expression time, infants can both determine the speed at which new information is processed and assess their ability to focus.”
This assessment has been linked to slower processing of information in the infants of pregnant women, as well as exposure to most of the palettes assessed, but the prognosis depends on the specific chemical, the sex of the infant, and the group of faces that the infant is familiar with. Male infants, especially mothers, tended to process information slowly if they were exposed to high concentrations of platelets, which interfere with androgenic hormones.
The researchers reported that the specific features of the faces presented to the infants in the familiarization experiments also contributed to the return. Children who were initially exposed to palette, familiar with Set 1’s faces, may experience a slower processing speed than those familiar with Set 1 faces.
Shunts said the findings are confusing, but can often be linked to differences in infant preferences for the two sets’ faces. Familiarity with Set 2 faces may also be an indication that changes in processing speed related to palette exposure are a more sensitive detector.
“Many previous studies on the relationship between pre-exposure to cochlea and cognition have focused on early and middle childhood,” Shunts said. “This new book suggests that some of these associations can be identified long before a child’s life.”
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Dyslevsky, KLC, And others. (2021) Associations of pre-exposure to phthalate with cognitive measurements in infants 7.5 months of age. Neuropsychology. doi.org/10.1016/j.neuro.2021.03.001.