Researchers at Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center Find Correlation between C-Sections and Baby Brain Development


LITTLE ROCK, AR. (Jan. 9, 2019) – Researchers at Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center (ACNC) recently published a study that reveals cesarean delivery (C-section) may have a significant impact on infant brain development. The manuscript was published in The American Journal of Neuroradiology, produced by the American Society of Neuroradiology.

C-Section ResearchThe global C-section rate has been increasing for decades. Until now, the pediatric outcomes associated with the increased C-section rate have been relatively unclear. Although some studies have suggested that C-sections may be associated with an increased risk of autism, attention deficit and hyperactivity, other research has not found a clear link between C-section and brain outcomes such as intelligence quotient (IQ). 

Xiawei Ou, PhD, director of the ACNC’s brain imaging laboratory and associate professor of radiology and pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), along with collaborators at the Advanced Baby Imaging Lab at Brown University, set out to better characterize how C-section birth impacts brain development. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), they studied the brains of over 300 healthy children ranging in age from 2 weeks to 8 years old.


Their results showed that babies who were born through C-section had significantly lower white matter development and functional connectivity in certain regions of the brain.  These differences seem to disappear by around 3 years of age in the children studied.  

 “The clinical and scientific implications of these findings could be vast,” said Ou. “Knowing the underlying factors that drive brain remodeling and growth during infancy is critical to understand how early-life events such as C-section birth influence later-life behavior and cognition.”

The long-term ramifications of these findings are not yet known. Ou has secured pilot grant funding to further explore specific factors that impact brain biology, neurocognition, learning, and behavior phenotypes.

ACNC is a major research center of the Arkansas Children’s research enterprise funded by the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) as part of the Human Nutrition Research Centers program. ACNC is one of six USDA-ARS national human nutrition research centers.


Arkansas Children’s, Inc. is the only health care system in the state solely dedicated to caring for children, which allows the organization to uniquely shape the landscape of pediatric care in Arkansas. The system includes a 336-bed hospital in Little Rock with the state’s only pediatric Level 1 Trauma Center, burn center, Level 4 neonatal intensive care and pediatric intensive care, and research institute as well as a nationally-recognized transport service. It is one of the 25 largest children’s hospitals in the United States and is nationally ranked by U.S. News World & Report in cardiology/heart surgery, neurology/neurosurgery, nephrology and pulmonology. Arkansas Children’s Northwest in Springdale includes 233,613 square feet of inpatient beds, emergency care, clinic rooms and diagnostic services. Arkansas Children’s also blankets the state with outreach programs that include telemedicine, mobile health and school-based health solutions. A private nonprofit, Arkansas Children’s boasts an internationally renowned reputation for medical breakthroughs and intensive treatments, unique surgical procedures and forward-thinking research and is committed to providing every child with access to the best care available, regardless of location or resources. Founded as an orphanage, Arkansas Children’s has championed children by making them better today and healthier tomorrow for more than 100 years. For more info, visit

UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; hospital; northwest Arkansas regional campus; statewide network of regional centers; and six institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and Translational Research Institute. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 2,727 students, 822 medical residents and five dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses throughout the state, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on FacebookTwitterYouTube or Instagram.

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