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Pediatr Neurol. 2011 Oct;45(4):213-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2011.06.001.

Prematurity affects cortical maturation in early childhood.

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Department of Neurology, University of New Mexico Health Science Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.


Cortical development in the first years of age for children with very low birth weight is not well characterized. We obtained high-resolution structural magnetic resonance images from children aged 18-22 months (16 very low birth weight/7 term) and 3-4 years (12 very low birth weight/8 term). Cortical surface area and thickness of the brain were assessed using the FreeSurfer data analysis program, and manually inspected for accuracy. For children with very low birth weight, a negative correlation was evident between birth weight and cortical thickness at 18-22 months (P = 0.04), and a positive correlation with cortical surface area at 3-4 years (P = 0.02). Between groups, children with very low birth weight demonstrated a consistent trend for thicker cortices and reduced surface area, compared with control term children (18-22 month surface area, P = 0.08; thickness, P = 0.11; 3-4 year surface area, P = 0.73; thickness, P = 0.14). The normal processes of cortical thinning and surface area expansion in the first several years of age may be delayed by premature delivery, a potentially more prominent effect with greater degrees of prematurity.

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