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Motor Abilities in Adolescents Born Preterm Are Associated With Microstructure of the Corpus Callosum

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Samuel Groeschel, Linda Holmström, Gemma Northam, J-Donald Tournier, Torsten Baldeweg, Beatrice Latal, Jon Caflisch, Brigitte Vollmer

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2019

King's Authors


Background: Preterm birth is associated with increased risk of neuromotor impairment. Rates of major neuromotor impairment (cerebral palsy) have decreased; however, in a large proportion of those who do not develop cerebral palsy impaired neuromotor function is observed and this often has implications for everyday life. The aim of this study was to investigate motor performance in preterm born adolescents without cerebral palsy, and to examine associations with alterations of motor system pathway structure. Design/Methods: Thirty-two adolescents (12 males) without cerebral palsy, born before 33 weeks of gestation (mean 27.4 weeks, SD 2.4; birth weight mean 1,084.5 g; SD 387.2), treated at a single tertiary unit, were assessed (median age 16 years; min 14, max 18). Timed performance and quality of movements were assessed with the Zürich Neuromotor Assessment. Neuroimaging included Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging for tractography of the major motor tracts and measurement of fractional anisotropy as a measure of microstructure of the tracts along the major motor pathways. Separate analyses were conducted for areas with predominantly single and predominantly crossing fiber regions. Results: Motor performance in both tasks assessing timed performance and quality of movements, was poorer than expected in the preterm group in relation to norm population. The strongest significant correlations were seen between performance in tasks assessing movement quality and fractional anisotropy in corpus callosum fibers connecting primary motor, primary somatosensory and premotor areas. In addition, timed motor performance was significantly related to fractional anisotropy in the cortico-spinal and thalamo-cortical to premotor area fibers, and the corpus callosum. Conclusions: Impairments in motor abilities are present in preterm born adolescents without major neuromotor impairment and in the absence of focal brain injury. Altered microstructure of the corpus callosum microstructure appears a crucial factor, in particular for movement quality.

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