The development of regional functional connectivity in preterm infants into early childhood
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Resting state networks are proposed to reflect the neuronal connectivity that underlies cognitive processes. Consequently, abnormal behaviour of these networks due to disease or altered development may predict poor cognitive outcome. To understand how very preterm birth may affect the development of resting state connectivity, we followed a cohort of very preterm-born infants from birth through to 4 years of age using resting state functional MRI.
From a larger longitudinal cohort of infants born very preterm (<32 weeks gestational age), 36 at birth, 30 at term, 21 two-year and 22 four-year resting state fMRI datasets were acquired. Using seed-based connectivity analyses with seeds in the anterior cingulate cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, left and right motor-hand regions and left and right temporal lobes, we investigated local and inter-region connectivity as a function of group and age.
We found strong local connectivity during the preterm period, which matured into inter-hemispheric and preliminary default-mode network correlations by 4 years of age. This development is comparable to the resting state networks found in term-born infants of equivalent age.
The results of this study suggest that differences in developmental trajectory between preterm-born and term-born infants are small and, if present, would require a large sample from both populations to be detected.
KeywordsPreterm infants fMRI Brain development Connectivity Resting state