Preemies may suffer from delayed development of their auditory nervous system if there is a deficiency of iron in the womb, opine researchers.
This delay could affect babies' ability to process sound, which is critical for later language development in early childhood.
Researchers at University of Rochester Medical Center sudied 80 infants over 18 months, testing their cord blood for iron levels and using a non-invasive tool -- auditory brainstem-evoked response (ABR) -- to measure the maturity of the brain's auditory nervous system soon after birth.
They found that the brains of infants with low iron levels in their cord blood had abnormal maturation of auditory system compared to infants with normal cord iron levels.
"Sound isn't transmitted as well through the immature auditory pathway in the brains of premature babies who are deficient in iron as compared to premature babies who have enough iron," said Sanjiv Amin, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center and author of the abstract
"We suspect that if the auditory neural system is affected during developmental phase, then other parts of the brain could also be affected in the presence of iron deficiency," Amin added.
The study had bee presented at the Paediatric Academic Society meeting in Baltimore.