How prenatal exposures shape the infant brain: Insights from infant neuroimaging studies

Alexander J. Dufford*, Marisa Spann, Dustin Scheinost

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Brain development during the prenatal period is rapid and unparalleled by any other time during development. Biological systems undergoing rapid development are at higher risk for disorganizing influences. Therefore, certain prenatal exposures impact brain development, increasing risk for negative neurodevelopmental outcome. While prenatal exposures have been associated with cognitive and behavioral outcomes later in life, the underlying macroscopic brain pathways remain unclear. Here, we review magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies investigating the association between prenatal exposures and infant brain development focusing on prenatal exposures via maternal physical health factors, maternal mental health factors, and maternal drug and medication use. Further, we discuss the need for studies to consider multiple prenatal exposures in parallel and suggest future directions for this body of research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-58
Number of pages12
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Brain development
  • Environmental
  • Perinatal
  • Pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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