Neuroanatomical consequences of very preterm birth in middle childhood
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Individuals born preterm can demonstrate reductions in brain volume, cortical surface area and thickness. However, the extent of these neuroanatomical deficits and the relation among these measures in middle childhood, a critical developmental period, have not been determined. We assessed differences in brain structure by acquiring high-resolution T1-weighted scans in 25 children born very preterm (<32 weeks gestational age) without significant post-natal neurological sequelae and 32 age-matched term-born children (7–10 years). Children born very preterm had decreased brain volume, surface area and cortical thickness compared to term-born children. Furthermore, children born preterm did not display the robust relation between total brain volume and basal ganglia and thalamic volume apparent in the term-born children. Cortical thickness analyses revealed that the cortex was thinner for children born preterm than term-born children in the anterior cingulate cortex/supplementary motor area, isthmus of the cingulate gyrus, right superior temporal sulcus, right anterior insula, postcentral gyrus and precuneus. Follow-up analyses revealed that right precuneus thickness was correlated with gestational age. Thus, even without significant postnatal medical sequelae, very preterm-born children showed atypical brain structure and developmental patterns in areas related to higher cognitive function. Disruptions of the typical neurodevelopmental trajectory in the third trimester of pregnancy likely underlie these differences persisting into middle childhood.
KeywordsPreterm Brain structure Cortical thickness Volume Surface area Children
This work was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research [Grant Number MOP-81161 to MJT]. The authors thank Wayne Lee for MRI technical and analysis support and the staff at the Neonatology Follow-Up Clinics, Hospital for Sick Children. We also sincerely thank the children and their families who participated in this study.
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