new paper published – The effect of intrauterine growth on verbal IQ scores in childhood: A study of monozygotic twins

Given the adverse neurobiological effects of suboptimal nutrition on the developing brain, it is of social and medical importance to determine if the global prevalence of poor intrauterine growth causes lasting cognitive deficits. We examined whether suboptimal intrauterine growth relates to impaired cognitive outcome by comparing birth weight and cognition in monozygotic twins and considered whether within-pair differences in birth weight were related to within-pair differences in IQ scores.
A total of 71 monozygotic twin pairs (aged 7 years 11 months to 17 years 3 months) participated. The Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children, Third Edition, was administered and verbal IQ (VIQ) and performance IQ (PIQ) scores were calculated. Regression was used to relate within-pair differences in birth weight to within-pair differences in IQ scores.
VIQ but not PIQ score was affected by prenatal growth restriction. The results suggested that the mean advantage for heavier twins relative to their lighter co-twins can be as much as half an SD in VIQ points. In pairs with minimal discordance, heavier twins had lower VIQ scores than their lighter co-twins.
Our study results suggest that lower birth weight in monozygotic twins can also have a negative long-term impact on cognition both in infants who are small at birth and also those with birth weights across the spectrum. Studying monozygotic twins enabled us to examine the effect of reduced intrauterine growth on cognition independently of confounding factors, including parent IQ and education, and infant gender, age, genetic characteristics and gestation.

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