Psychomotor ability in children prenatally exposed to methylmercury: The 18-month follow-up of Tohoku Study of Child Development

Nozomi Tatsuta, Katsuyuki Murata, Miyuki Iwai-Shimada, Kozue Yaginuma-Sakurai, Hiroshi Satoh, Kunihiko Nakai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Fish contain nutrients essential to the developing fetal brain, but they are contaminated with methylmercury. The Tohoku Study of Child Development, now underway in the Sanriku coastal area of Miyagi prefecture, Japan, follows mother-child pairs to examine the risks and benefits of fish consumption during pregnancy, especially the effects of prenatal exposures to methylmercury, selenium, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on child neurodevelopment. Children aged 18 months were administered the Bayley Scales of Infant Development second edition (BSID-II) and Kyoto Scale of Psychological Development (KSPD) in 2004-2008. Complete data of cord-blood total mercury (THg), cord-plasma selenium, maternal-plasma DHA, the above test scores, and confounders for 566 mother-child pairs were available. The median cord-blood THg level was 15.7 (range, 2.7-96.1) ng/g. Since the BSID-II and KSPD scores were significantly lower in the 285 boys than in the 281 girls, analyses were conducted separately. The Psychomotor Development Index (PDI) of BSID-II was significantly correlated with cord-blood THg only in the boys, and significance of the association remained unchanged after adjusting for possible confounders; i.e., a 10-fold increase in cord-blood THg was associated with a 8.3-point decrease in the score of the PDI. Other significant correlations of THg were not seen in the boys or girls. Selenium and DHA showed no significant correlations with the BSID-II or KSPD scores in either sex. In conclusion, intrauterine methylmercury exposure may affect psychomotor development, and boys appear to be more vulnerable to the exposure than girls.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalTohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017 May


  • Docosahexaenoic acid
  • Methylmercury
  • Psychomotor development
  • Selenium
  • Sex difference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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