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Very preterm births associated with altered brain structure and cognitive impairment in adolescence

DECEMBER 03, 2007

The largest study so far to follow-up preterm babies (< 33 weeks of gestation) into adolescence with structural MRI and neurodevelopmental outcome data has been published by Dr Chiara Nosarti and colleagues from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's in Brain this month. The results of this study demonstrated that very preterm birth is associated with altered brain structure in adolescence and that the observed white/grey matter alterations mediate the effects of very preterm birth on cognitive functioning in adolescence.

Very preterm individuals compared to controls showed reduced grey matter in temporal, frontal, occipital cortices and cerebellum, including putamen, insula, cuneus, fusiform gyrus, thalamus and caudate nucleus. White matter loss was concentrated in the brainstem, internal capsule, temporal and frontal regions and the major fasciculi. Very preterm adolescents were in addition more likely to show cognitive impairment compared to controls. Grey and white matter alterations were associated with length of gestation and mediated adolescent neurodevelopmental impairment. Thus, anatomical brain changes may contribute to specific cognitive deficits associated with very preterm birth and could be used in the identification of those individuals who may be at increased risk for cognitive impairment.

The paper is entitled: 'Grey and white matter distribution in very preterm adolescents mediates neurodevelopmental outcome' authored by:  Chiara Nosarti; Elena Giouroukou; Elaine Healy; Larry Rifkin; Muriel Walshe; Abraham Reichenberg; Xavier Chitnis; Steven C. R. Williams; Robin M. Murray; Brain 2007; doi: 10.1093/brain/awm282
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