Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology

Original Articles

Explicit memory performance in infants of diabetic mothers at 1 year of age

Tracy DeBoer  a1, Sandi Wewerka  a2, Patricia J Bauer  a1, Michael K Georgieff  a3 and Charles A Nelson  a3 c1
a1 Institute of Child Development and Center for Neurobehavioral Development, University of Minnesota, USA.
a2 Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, USA.
a3 Department of Pediatrics, Institute of Child Development and Center for Neurobehavioral Development, University of Minnesota, USA.


The aim of the present research was to investigate the impact of abnormal fetal environment on explicit memory performance. Based on animal models, it was hypothesized that infants of diabetic mothers (IDMs) experience perturbations in memory performance due to exposure to multiple neurologic risk factors including: chronic hypoxia, hyperglycemia/reactive hypoglycemia, and iron deficiency. Memory performance, as measured by the elicited/deferred imitation paradigm, was compared between 13 IDMs (seven females, six males; mean age 365 days, SD 11) and 16 typically developing children (seven females, nine males; mean age 379 days, SD 9). The IDM group was characterized by shorter gestational age (mean 38w, SD 2), greater standardized birthweight scores (mean 3797g, SD 947), and lower iron stores (mean ferritin concentration 87μg/L, SD 68) in comparison with the control group (mean gestational age: 40w, SD 1; mean birthweight: 3639g, SD 348; mean newborn ferritin concentration 140μg/L, SD 46). After statistically controlling for both gestational age and global cognitive abilities, IDMs demonstrated a deficit in the ability to recall multi-step event sequences after a delay was imposed. These findings highlight the importance of the prenatal environment on subsequent mnemonic behavior and suggest a connection between metabolic abnormalities during the prenatal period, development of memory, circuitry, and behavioral mnemonic performance.

(Accepted September 20 2004)

c1 Developmental Medicine Center, Boston Children's Hospital, 300 Longwood Avenue, Fegan 10, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA. E-mail: