Accelerated cerebral white matter development in preterm infants: a voxel-based morphometry study with diffusion tensor MR imaging

Neuroimage. 2008 Jul 1;41(3):728-34. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.02.029. Epub 2008 Mar 4.


Twenty-seven preterm infants were compared to 10 full-term infants at term equivalent age using a voxel-based analysis of diffusion tensor imaging of the brain. Preterm infants exhibited higher fractional anisotropy values, which may suggest accelerated maturation, in the location of the sagittal stratum. While some earlier findings in preterm infants have suggested developmental delays, the results of this study are more consistent with accelerated white matter development, possibly as a result of increased sensorimotor stimulation in the extrauterine environment. These results are the first to suggest that the increased intensity of stimulation associated with preterm birth may advance the process of white matter maturation in the human brain. Questions remain about whether these findings reflect acceleration of the process of white matter maturation generally, or localized alterations induced specifically by activity in affected pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anisotropy
  • Cerebral Cortex / growth & development*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Human Development
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / growth & development*