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Cereb Cortex. 2010 Dec;20(12):2852-62. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhq035. Epub 2010 Mar 17.

Longitudinal analysis of neural network development in preterm infants.

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Department of Neurology, Division of Pediatric Neurology, Washington University School ofMedicine, 660 South Euclid Avenue, Saint Louis, MO 63110-1093, USA.


Application of resting state functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging (fcMRI) to the study of prematurely born infants enables assessment of the earliest forms of cerebral connectivity and characterization of its early development in the human brain. We obtained 90 longitudinal fcMRI data sets from a cohort of preterm infants aged from 26 weeks postmenstrual age (PMA) through term equivalent age at PMA-specific time points. Utilizing seed-based correlation analysis, we identified resting state networks involving varied cortical regions, the thalamus, and cerebellum. Identified networks demonstrated a regionally variable age-specific pattern of development, with more mature forms consisting of localized interhemispheric connections between homotopic counterparts. Anatomical distance was found to play a critical role in the rate of connection development. Prominent differences were noted between networks identified in term control versus premature infants at term equivalent, including in the thalamocortical connections critical for neurodevelopment. Putative precursors of the default mode network were detected in term control infants but were not identified in preterm infants, including those at term equivalent. Identified patterns of network maturation reflect the intricate relationship of structural and functional processes present throughout this important developmental period and are consistent with prior investigations of neurodevelopment in this population.

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