A Potential Pathway to Abnormal Brain Development? Neuro-circuitry Altered in Preemies

Published on 
November 10, 2014
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Using three-dimensional brain structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Yi Lao, MS, Natasha Lepore, PhD, and colleagues analyzed the structure and neural circuitry of two specific areas of the brain in 17 preterm and 19 term-born babies. Their results were published online in Brain Structure and Function.

While many studies have spotted alterations in various brain structures related to prematurity, this is the first study to link the structural abnormalities to specific neuro-circuitry, the communication pathways of the brain. To investigate these changes, the CHLA researchers performed a novel, combined analysis of the external shape and dimension of the surfaces of the thalamus and putamen, and compared the relative position of these structures to one another.

“The ability to identify structural signs of neurodevelopmental disease shortly after birth in premature infants could allow for early interventions, increasing the child’s social and learning behaviors as they age,” said Lepore.

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In the image above: Two bilateral structures within the brain, the thalamus and the putamen, are shown. Both the thalamus, involved in relaying information between various brain regions, and the putamen, involved in attention and executive function, are affected in diseases such as ADHD. In the left hemisphere, the red arrow indicates a pair of regions jointly affected by prematurity.