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Dev Neuropsychol. 2011;36(1):22-41. doi: 10.1080/87565641.2011.540530.

Neonatal white matter abnormalities predict global executive function impairment in children born very preterm.

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Canterbury Child Development Research Group, Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.


Using prospective longitudinal data from 110 very preterm and 113 full term children, this article describes the executive functioning abilities of very preterm children at age 4, and examines relations between the extent of white matter abnormality on neonatal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and later executive function outcomes. Very preterm children performed less well than full term children on measures of planning ability, cognitive flexibility, selective attention, and inhibitory control. Executive impairments at age 4 were confined to preterm children with mild or moderate-severe white matter abnormalities on MRI. Findings support the importance of cerebral white matter integrity for later executive function.

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