Being born 4-6 weeks premature can affect brain structure, function

May 5, 2014, American Academy of Pediatrics

The brains of children who were born just a few weeks early differ from those born on time, and these differences may affect learning and behavior, according to a study to be presented Monday, May 5, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Studies have shown that children who were born between 34 and 36 weeks' gestation (late preterm) have more social, behavioral and academic problems than children born at full term (37-41 weeks). However, few studies have looked at the brain structure of late .

Researchers from the University of Iowa conducted (MRI) scans on 32 children ages 7-13 years old who were born at 34-36 weeks' gestation. In addition, they administered cognitive tests to the children, including the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Benton Judgment of Line Orientation (which assesses visual perception), Grooved Pegboard (which assesses fine motor skills and coordination) and Children's Memory Scale. Parents also completed a behavioral assessment.

Results were compared to 64 children born at full term who were recruited for another study in which they completed the same cognitive and behavioral assessments, neurological exam, and MRI sequences as the late preterm group.

Preliminary analysis showed differences in both cognitive function and brain structure in the late preterm children compared to full term children. Functionally, late preterm children had more difficulties with visuospatial reasoning and visual memory. They also had slower processing speed. Processing speed refers to the ability to perform automatically a simple task in an efficient manner. Children with slower processing speed may require more time in the classroom setting to accomplish a task.

Structurally, the brains of late preterm children had less total cerebral white matter, which is critical to communication between nerve cells, and smaller thalami, a brain region involved in sensory and motor signaling.

"Late preterm birth accounts for 8 percent of all births each year in the United States, making it a public health issue," said presenting author Jane E. Brumbaugh, MD, FAAP, associate, University of Iowa Stead Family Department of Pediatrics. "The effects of late preterm birth on the brain have not yet been fully characterized, and it has been assumed that there are no significant consequences to being born a few weeks early. Our preliminary findings show that children born late preterm have differences in and deficits in specific cognitive skills compared to children born full term."

Parents of late preterm children also reported more problems with hyperactivity, inattention, opposition and aggression than parents of full term .

"The developing brain is vulnerable to what most might consider a minor 'insult' in being born late preterm. Moreover, these effects are enduring," said senior author Peggy C. Nopoulos, MD, professor of psychiatry, neurology and pediatrics with University of Iowa Health Care.

Explore further: Preterm birth is associated with increased risk of asthma and wheezing disorders

More information: Dr. Brumbaugh will present "Late Preterm Children Demonstrate Altered Brain Function and Structure at School Age" from 3:30-3:45 p.m. Monday, May 5. To view the study abstract, go to www.abstracts2view.com/pas/vie … hp?nu=PAS14L1_3670.1

Related Stories

Preterm birth is associated with increased risk of asthma and wheezing disorders

January 28, 2014
Children who are born preterm have an increased risk developing asthma and wheezing disorders during childhood according to new research published in PLOS Medicine.

Insulin sensitivity lower in adults born preterm

September 27, 2012
(HealthDay)—Middle-aged adults who were born preterm, even moderately preterm (32 to 36 weeks' gestation), are less insulin sensitive compared with adults who were born at term, according to research published in the October ...

Brain mapping study to improve outcomes for preterm infants

October 22, 2013
A University of Queensland study into how premature babies' brains develop will lead to the earlier diagnosis of brain impairment in preterm children.

Preterm children at increased risk of having maths problems

March 21, 2014
Researchers have found that preterm children are at an increased risk of having general cognitive and mathematic problems.

Pre-term birth and asthma: Preterm birth may increase the risk of asthma and wheezing disorders during childhood

March 7, 2014
Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in Boston, Massachusetts, in collaboration with investigators at the Maastricht University Medical Centre and Maastricht University School of Public Health in the Netherlands ...

Babies born 32-36 weeks fare less well at school

December 8, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Only 71 per cent of babies born between 32 and 36 weeks are successful in key stage 1 (KS1) tests (defined as achieving at least level 2 in reading, writing and maths), compared to 79 per cent of babies ...

Recommended for you

Phone-addicted teens are unhappy, study finds

January 22, 2018
Happiness is not a warm phone, according to a new study exploring the link between adolescent life satisfaction and screen time. Teens whose eyes are habitually glued to their smartphones are markedly unhappier, said study ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

NeuroNext biomarker study explores natural history of infantile-onset SMA

January 9, 2018
Research led by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to define the natural history of infantile-onset spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) has been "critical" to accelerate the development of effective therapies and hasten ...

No link between childhood lead levels, later criminality

December 27, 2017
(HealthDay)— Exposure to higher levels of lead during early childhood can affect neurological development—but does that mean affected kids are doomed to delinquency?

Early puberty in girls may take mental health toll

December 26, 2017
(HealthDay)—A girl who gets her first menstrual period early in life—possibly as young as 7—has a greater risk for developing depression and antisocial behaviors that last at least into her 20s, a new study suggests.

Technology not taking over children's lives despite screen-time increase

December 21, 2017
With children spending increasing amounts of time on screen-based devices, there is a common perception that technology is taking over their lives, to the detriment and exclusion of other activities. However, new Oxford University ...

0 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.