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Brain Dev. 2013 Jan;35(1):10-6. doi: 10.1016/j.braindev.2011.12.011. Epub 2012 Jan 27.

Gray matter volumetric MRI differences late-preterm and term infants.

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Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Nihon University School of Medicine, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo, Japan.


Gray matter develops rapidly during the third trimester of pregnancy, which is a critical period for lipid deposition. We measured brain volume in term and late-preterm infants to determine if it is related to disabilities in late-preterm infants. In addition, we measured serum lipid concentrations to investigate the relationship between brain volume and lipid nutrition. Magnetic resonance imaging scans were obtained in 16 late-preterm and 13 term infants. We measured cerebrum, gray matter, and white matter volumes. We performed serum cholesterol, triglyceride (TG), and lipoprotein analyses in cord blood by high-performance liquid chromatography using gel permeation columns to assess lipid nutritional levels. The gray matter volume and percent cerebrum volume of gray matter were significantly smaller in late-preterm infants (p<0.001). Head circumference and cerebrum and white matter volume did not differ between the two groups. Gray matter volume correlated positively with gestational age (r=0.647, p<0.001), head circumference (r=0.688, p<0.001), and high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-TG levels (r=0.496, p=0.006). Late-preterm infants had a normal head circumference and a lower gray matter volume than term infants. Gestational age and head circumference were significantly associated with gray matter volume. Only HDL-TG levels were significantly associated with gray matter volume. HDL-TG might contribute to the transport of fatty acids and gray matter development during the postnatal period. Thus, delayed gray matter development may partly contribute to neurodevelopmental disabilities in late-preterm infants.

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