Prematurity and preterm stressors severely affect the development of infants born before 37 weeks of gestation, with increasing effects seen at earlier gestations. Although preterm mortality rates have declined due to the advances in neonatal care, disability rates, especially in middle-income settings, continue to grow. With the advances in MR imaging technology, there has been a focus on safely imaging the preterm brain to better understand its development and discover the brain regions and networks affected by prematurity. Such studies aim to support interventions and improve the neurodevelopment of preterm infants and deliver accurate prognoses. Few studies, however, have focused on the fully developed brain of preterm born infants, especially in extremely preterm subjects. To assess the long-term effect of prematurity on the adult brain, myelin related biomarkers such as myelin water fraction and g-ratio are measured for a cohort of 19-year-old extremely preterm born subjects. Using multi-modal imaging techniques that combine T2 relaxometry and neurite density information, the results show that specific brain regions associated with white matter injuries due to preterm birth, such as the posterior limb of the internal capsule and corpus callosum, are still less myelinated in adulthood. Furthermore, a weak positive relationship between myelin water fraction values and Full-Scale Intelligence Quotient (FSIQ) scores was found in multiple brain regions previously defined as less myelinated in the Extremely Preterm (EPT) cohort. These findings might suggest altered connectivity in the adult preterm brain and explain differences in cognitive outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-124
Number of pages11
JournalMagnetic resonance imaging
Early online date19 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

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