Frontal EEG asymmetry in extremely low birth weight adult survivors: Links to antenatal corticosteroid exposure and psychopathology Academic Article uri icon

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  • OBJECTIVE: Extremely low birth weight (ELBW; <1000 g) survivors are exposed to significant perinatal adversity. In many cases, mothers of these infants receive antenatal corticosteroids (ACS), which reduce offspring neonatal mortality but may have lasting neuropsychiatric effects. However, the long-term neurophysiological effects of being born at ELBW and exposed to ACS are unknown. METHODS: We compared resting frontal electroencephalogram (EEG) alpha asymmetry in ELBW survivors (n = 51), some of whom were exposed to antenatal corticosteroids (ELBW-S; n = 23) versus non-exposed (ELBW-NS; n = 28), and normal birth weight controls (NBW; n = 66) in adulthood (mage = 32.3 years). RESULTS: ELBW survivors exhibited greater relative right frontal EEG alpha (11.5 to 13.5 Hz) asymmetry at rest relative to NBW controls. A linear relation was observed between increased exposure to perinatal adversity (NBW vs. ELBW-NS vs. ELBW-S) and greater relative right frontal asymmetry. Relative right frontal asymmetry was also linked to contemporaneous psychopathology in all individuals. CONCLUSION: In the fourth decade of life, exposure to perinatal adversity was associated with patterns of frontal brain activity that reflect risk for psychopathology. Exposure to additional physiological stresses such as antenatal corticosteroids may amplify these effects. SIGNIFICANCE: The mental health of ELBW survivors, particularly those exposed to antenatal corticosteroids, should be monitored into adulthood.


  • Krzeczkowski, John E
  • Schmidt, Louis
  • Savoy, Calan
  • Saigal, Saroj
  • Van Lieshout, Ryan J

publication date

  • September 2018