A neonatal piglet model for investigating brain and cognitive development in small for gestational age human infants

PloS One
Emily C RadlowskiRodney W Johnson


The piglet was investigated as a potential model for studying brain and cognitive deficits associated with being born small for gestational age (SGA). Naturally farrowed SGA (0.7-1.0 kg BW) and average for gestational age (AGA, 1.3-1.6 kg BW) piglets were obtained on postnatal day (PD) 2, placed in individual cages, and provided a nutritionally adequate milk replacer diet (285 ml/kg/d). Beginning at PD14, performance in a spatial T-maze task was assessed. At PD28, piglets were anesthetized for magnetic resonance (MR) imaging to assess brain structure (voxel-based morphometry), connectivity (diffusion-tensor imaging) and metabolites in the hippocampus and corpus callosum (proton MR spectroscopy). Piglets born SGA showed compensatory growth such that BW of SGA and AGA piglets was similar (P>0.05), by PD15. Birth weight affected maze performance, with SGA piglets taking longer to reach criterion than AGA piglets (p<0.01). Total brain volume of SGA and AGA piglets was similar (P<0.05), but overall, SGA piglets had less gray matter than AGA piglets (p<0.01) and tended to have a smaller internal capsule (p = 0.07). Group comparisons between SGA and AGA piglets defined 9 areas (≥ 20 clusters) where SGA piglets had less white matter (p...Continue Reading


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