New research finds slower growth of preterm infants linked to altered brain development

(Medical Xpress)—Preterm infants who grow more slowly as they approached what would have been their due dates also have slower development in an area of the brain called the cerebral cortex, report Canadian researchers in a new study published today in Science Translational Medicine.

The is a two to four millimetre layer of that envelopes the top and is involved in cognitive, behavioural, and motor processes.

Researchers analyzed MRI brain scans of 95 preterm infants born eight to 16 weeks too early at BC Women's Hospital & Health Centre between 2006 and 2009. Infants were scanned soon after birth and a second time close to what would have been their due date, the ninth month of pregnancy. These MRI scans allowed researchers to measure the pattern of water movement inside the brain, which normally changes between scans as the brain matures. The researchers also assessed the babies' weight, length, and head size. They found that with slower growth had delayed development in the cerebral cortex compared to those infants who grew more quickly between scans.

"These results are an exciting first step because understanding the importance of growth in relation to the brain in these small babies may eventually lead to new discoveries that will help us optimize their brain development," says Dr. Steven Miller, the study's co-lead. Dr. Miller is head of neurology at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), the Bloorview Children's Hospital Chair in Paediatric Neuroscience, professor in the department of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto, affiliate professor in the department of Pediatrics at the University of British Columbia (UBC), and affiliate investigator at the Child & Family Research Institute (CFRI) at BC Children's Hospital. He led the study with Dr. Ruth Grunau, a professor in the UBC Department of Pediatrics and CFRI senior scientist.

"More research needs to be done to understand what is the optimal growth rate for the brain development of these babies," says Jillian Vinall, the study's first author and a UBC PhD student co-supervised by Dr. Grunau and Dr. Miller.

"We're especially grateful to the families for their generous and ongoing participation in this study," says Dr. Miller. The researchers are following the babies through childhood to understand how preterm is associated with their neurodevelopment outcomes.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Inpatient psychotherapy is effective in Germany

51 minutes ago

Sarah Liebherz (Department of Medical Psychology, University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf) and Sven Rabung (Institute of Psychology, Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt) have examined 59 studies conducted between 1977 ...

A game changer to boost literacy and maths skills

2 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—Finding the best way to teach reading has been an ongoing challenge for decades, especially for those children in underprivileged areas who fail to learn to read. What is the magic ingredient that will ...

How do we make moral judgements?

3 hours ago

In a target article published in the current issue of the American Journal of Bioethics (AJOB) Neuroscience, Université de Montréal and IRCM neuroethics experts open the black box of moral intuitions by suggesting a new ...

Missing gene linked to autism

23 hours ago

Researchers at the University of Leeds have shed light on a gene mutation linked to autistic traits.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.