Forns J, Torrent M, Garcia-Esteban R, Caceres A, Pilar Gomila M, Martinez D, Morales E, Julvez J, Grimalt JO, Sunyer J. Longitudinal association between early life socio-environmental factors and attention function at the age 11 years. Environ Res. 2012 Aug;117:54-9. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2012.04.007

Prenatal and early-life exposures can affect the course of children's neuropsychological development well into pre-adolescence, given the vulnerability of the developing brain. However, it is unknown which socio-environmental factors at early childhood can influence specific cognitive processes like attention at a later age. In this study, we aim to determine social and environmental exposures in early childhood that may be associated with attention function of 11-year-olds. We measured attention function using the continuous performance test-II (CPT-II) on 393 11-year old children from the Menorca's birth-cohort within the INMA-project (Spain), and pre-selected a list of socio-environmental observations taken when they were up to 4 years of age. We found that earlier socio-environmental characteristics, such as parental social class, educational level and maternal mental health are associated with later inattentive and impulsive symptomatology through a higher rate of omission and commission errors. In addition, omission errors were higher in children with atopy and lower in those whose mothers took dietary supplementation with folic acid and vitamins during pregnancy. Breastfeeding played a protective role against commission errors, while higher DDE and PCBs levels at age 4 were associated with slow speed response. Our findings suggest that a number of life socio-environmental factors during prenatal life and early childhood, such as socio-demographic characteristics, breastfeeding, maternal nutritional supplementation with folic acid and vitamins and exposure to some organochlorine compounds may influence inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptomatology during pre-adolescence.

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