Preterm infant body composition, working memory, and temperament

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Altered body composition in preterm infants is associated with risks to cognitive development, but the effect specific to prefrontal cortex (PFC) development is unknown. We were interested in the impact of fat mass (FM) and fat free mass (FFM) gains out to 4 months corrected gestational age (CGA) on PFC development, as indexed by working memory and temperament. This is a prospective observational pilot study recruiting 100 preterm (<33 weeks gestation), appropriate for gestational age, and very low birth weight infants, of which 49 infants met inclusion criteria. Body composition was measured using air displacement plethysmography at hospital discharge and 4 months CGA. Questionnaire based temperament assessments were completed at 12 and 24 months CGA and a working memory assessment was completed at 24 months CGA. Associations between developmental tests and body composition obtained at term and 4 months were analyzed. Increased FM at discharge was associated with increased fear and decreased soothability at 12 months. Increased FM at 4 months was associated with increased activity level, increased distress from limitations at 12 months and decreased attentional shifting, decreased frustration, and decreased inhibitory control at 24 months. Increased FFM at 4 months was associated with increased activity level at 12 months and increased impulsivity and decreased low intensity pleasure at 24 months. In this exploratory pilot study, increased FM out to 4 months and increased FFM after discharge are associated with negative markers of infant temperament. Infant temperament may be sensitive to body composition status at least to 4 months CGA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101808
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded in part by March of Dimes Foundation Grant No. 12-FY13-295 .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Inc.


  • Body composition
  • Infant temperament
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Preterm infant

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Journal Article


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