We aimed to investigate whether periconceptional maternal folate status affects human embryonic cerebellar size and growth trajectories. In a prospective periconceptional cohort participants filled out questionnaires and received weekly transvaginal 3D-ultrasounds between 7+0 and 12+6 weeks gestational age (GA). Viable non-malformed singleton pregnancies were selected for cerebellar measurements; transcerebellar diameter, (TCD), left and right cerebellar diameters (LCD, RCD). Linear mixed models were performed to estimate associations between questionnaire data on the timing of maternal folic acid supplement initiation and longitudinal cerebellar measurements as a function of crown-rump length (CRL) and GA. Maternal red blood cell folate concentrations were analysed before 8 weeks GA to validate the associations. A total of 263 serial high quality three-dimensional ultrasound scans of 135 pregnancies were studied. Preconceptional compared to postconceptional initiation of folic acid use was associated with slightly larger cerebellar diameters per millimetre increase of CRL (TCD: β = 0.260mm, 95%CI = 0.023-0.491, p<0.05; LCD: β = 0.171mm, 95%CI = 0.038-0.305, p<0.05; RCD: β = 0.156mm, 95%CI = 0.032-0.280, p<0.05) and with proportional cerebellar growth (TCD/CRL:β = 0.015mm/mm, 95%CI = 0.005-0.024, p<0.01; LCD/CRL:β = 0.012mm/mm, 95%CI = 0.005-0.018, p<0.01; RCD/ CRL:β = 0.011mm/mm, 95%CI = 0.005-0.017, p<0.01). Cerebellar growth was significantly highest in the third quartile of maternal red blood cell folate levels (1538-1813 nmol/L). These first findings show that periconceptional maternal folate status is associated with human embryonic cerebellar development. Implications of these small but significant variations for fetal cerebellar growth trajectories and the child's neurodevelopmental outcome are yet unknown and warrant further investigation.

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Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0141089, hdl.handle.net/1765/86707
Journal PLoS ONE
Koning, I.V, Groenenberg, I.A.L, Gotink, A.W, Willemsen, S.P, Gijtenbeek, M, Dudink, J, … Steegers-Theunissen, R.P.M. (2015). Periconception maternal folate status and human embryonic cerebellum growth trajectories: The Rotterdam predict study. PLoS ONE, 10(10). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0141089