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.

The 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.

About Arkansas Children’s

Arkansas Children's, Inc. is the only healthcare system in the state solely dedicated to caring for Arkansas' 710,000 children, giving the organization a unique ability to shape the landscape of pediatric care in Arkansas and transform the health of children throughout the region. The private, non-profit organization includes two pediatric hospitals, a pediatric research institute and USDA nutrition center, a philanthropic foundation, a nursery alliance, statewide clinics, and many education and outreach programs.

Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) is a 336-bed, Magnet-recognized facility in Little Rock operating the state’s only Level I pediatric trauma center; the state's only burn center; the state's only Level IV neonatal intensive care unit; the state's only pediatric intensive care unit; the state’s only pediatric surgery program with Level 1 verification from the American College of Surgeons; and the state's only nationally recognized pediatric transport program. Additionally, ACH is nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report in five pediatric subspecialties (2019-2020): Cardiology & Heart Surgery, Nephrology, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Orthopedics and Pulmonology. Arkansas Children’s Northwest (ACNW), the first and only pediatric hospital in the Northwest Arkansas region, opened in Springdale in early 2018. ACNW operates a 24-bed inpatient unit; a surgical unit with five operating rooms; outpatient clinics offering over 20 subspecialties; diagnostic services; imaging capabilities; occupational therapy services; and Northwest Arkansas' only pediatric emergency department, equipped with 30 exam rooms. Generous philanthropic and volunteer engagement has sustained Arkansas Children's since it began as an orphanage in 1912, and today ensures the system can fundamentally transform the health of children in Arkansas and beyond. To learn more, visit

About UAMS

UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven 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, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS’ clinical enterprise including its hospital, regional clinics and clinics it operates or staffs in cooperation with other providers. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. U.S. News & World Report named UAMS Medical Center the state’s Best Hospital; ranked its ear, nose and throat program among the top 50 nationwide; and named six areas as high performing — cancer, colon cancer surgery, heart failure, hip replacement, knee replacement and lung cancer surgery. UAMS has 2,727 students, 870 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, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.