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Cereb Cortex. 2011 Feb;21(2):300-6. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhq095. Epub 2010 Jun 3.

Effects of preterm birth on cortical thickness measured in adolescence.

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Department of Woman and Child Health, Neonatal Unit, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm 171 76, Sweden.


Despite the extensive research into brain development after preterm birth, few studies have investigated its long-term effects on cortical thickness. The Stockholm Neonatal Project included infants between 1988 and 1993 with birth weight (BW) ≤ 1500 g. Using a previously published method, cortical thickness was estimated on T(1)-weighted 3D anatomical images acquired from 74 ex-preterm and 69 term-born adolescents (mean age 14.92 years). The cortex was significantly thinner in ex-preterm individuals in focal regions of the temporal and parietal cortices as indicated by voxel-wise t-tests. In addition, large regions around the central sulcus and temporal lobe as well as parts of the frontal and occipital lobes tended also to be thinner in the ex-preterm group. Although these results were not significant on voxel-wise tests, the spatially coherent arrangement of the thinning in ex-preterm individuals made it notable. When the group of ex-preterm individuals was divided by gestational age or BW, the thinning tended to be more pronounced in the anterior and posterior poles in those born nearer term or with a BW closer to 1500 g. These results support the notion that preterm birth is a risk factor for long-term development of cortical thickness.

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