Stunting in infancy is associated with atypical activation of working memory and attention networks

Wijeakumar, Sobanawartiny, Forbes, Samuel H., Magnotta, Vincent A., Deoni, Sean, Jackson, Kiara, Singh, Vinay P., Tiwari, Madhuri, Kumar, Aarti and Spencer, John P. ORCID: (2023) Stunting in infancy is associated with atypical activation of working memory and attention networks. Nature Human Behaviour, 7. 2199–2211. ISSN 2397-3374

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Stunting is associated with poor long-term cognitive, academic and economic outcomes, yet the mechanisms through which stunting impacts cognition in early development remain unknown. In a first-ever neuroimaging study conducted on infants from rural India, we demonstrate that stunting impacts a critical, early-developing cognitive system—visual working memory. Stunted infants showed poor visual working memory performance and were easily distractible. Poor performance was associated with reduced engagement of the left anterior intraparietal sulcus, a region involved in visual working memory maintenance and greater suppression in the right temporoparietal junction, a region involved in attentional shifting. When assessed one year later, stunted infants had lower problem-solving scores, while infants of normal height with greater left anterior intraparietal sulcus activation showed higher problem-solving scores. Finally, short-for-age infants with poor physical growth indices but good visual working memory performance showed more positive outcomes suggesting that intervention efforts should focus on improving working memory and reducing distractibility in infancy.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Data availability: All final data used in statistical analyses will be publicly available on Github following publication. All raw and processed fNIRS data will be available by agreement through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation fNIRS Consortium hosted by Yale University/Haskins Laboratory. Code availability: fNIRS analyses pipeline is publicly available under All code and revisions will be publicly available on Github following publication. Acknowledgements and funding sources: This work was supported by Grant No. OPP1164153 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Grant No. R01HD083287 from the National Institutes of Health awarded to J. P. Spencer, Grant No. RPG-2019-286 from the Leverhulme Trust awarded to S. Wijeakumar, and NIH Grant P50HD103556 awarded to V.A. Magnotta.
Uncontrolled Keywords: social psychology,experimental and cognitive psychology,behavioral neuroscience ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/3200/3207
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Psychology
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Groups > Developmental Science
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Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2023 11:30
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2023 02:55
DOI: 10.1038/s41562-023-01725-3


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