Breastfeeding duration is associated with regional, but not global, differences in white matter tracts

Christopher E. Bauer, James W. Lewis, Julie Brefczynski-Lewis, Chris Frum, Margeaux M. Schade, Marc W. Haut, Hawley E. Montgomery-Downs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Extended breastfeeding through infancy confers benefits on neurocognitive performance and intelligence tests, though few have examined the biological basis of these effects. To investigate correlations with breastfeeding, we examined the major white matter tracts in 4–8 year-old children using diffusion tensor imaging and volumetric measurements of the corpus callosum. We found a significant correlation between the duration of infant breastfeeding and fractional anisotropy scores in left-lateralized white matter tracts, including the left superior longitudinal fasciculus and left angular bundle, which is indicative of greater intrahemispheric connectivity. However, in contrast to expectations from earlier studies, no correlations were observed with corpus callosum size, and thus no correlations were observed when using such measures of global interhemispheric white matter connectivity development. These findings suggest a complex but significant positive association between breastfeeding duration and white matter connectivity, including in pathways known to be functionally relevant for reading and language development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number19
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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