Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2022 Jul 29. doi: 10.1007/s00406-022-01454-0. Online ahead of print.
Epidemiological studies have shown that gestational age and birth weight are linked to cognitive performance in adults. On a neurobiological level, this effect is hypothesized to be related to cortical gyrification, which is determined primarily during fetal development. The relationships between gestational age, gyrification and specific cognitive abilities in adults are still poorly understood. In 542 healthy participants, gyrification indices were calculated from structural magnetic resonance imaging T1 data at 3 T using CAT12. After applying a battery of neuropsychological tests, neuropsychological factors were extracted with a factor analysis. We conducted regressions to test associations between gyrification and gestational age as well as birth weight. Moderation analyses explored the relationships between gestational age, gyrification and neuropsychological factors. Gestational age is significantly positively associated with cortical folding in the left supramarginal, bilaterally in the superior frontal and the lingual cortex. We extracted two neuropsychological factors that describe language abilities and working memory/attention. The association between gyrification in the left superior frontal gyrus and working memory/attention was moderated by gestational age. Further, the association between gyrification in the left supramarginal cortex and both, working memory/attention as well as language, were moderated by gestational age. Gyrification is associated with gestational age and related to specific neuropsychological outcomes in healthy adulthood. Implications from these findings for the cortical neurodevelopment of cognitive domains and mental health are discussed.