Neural substrates of visual paired associates in young adults with a history of very preterm birth: alterations in fronto-parieto-occipital networks and caudate nucleus

Neuroimage. 2009 Oct 1;47(4):1884-93. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.04.036. Epub 2009 Apr 17.


This study investigated neuronal activation during visuo-perceptual learning processing in adults who were born very preterm (VPT, <33 weeks' gestation). A visual paired associates task was administered during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and neuronal activation was compared between 21 VPT-born adults of both sexes and 22 matched controls. The task consisted of 4 conditions (encoding, recognition, same/different discrimination condition (baseline) and a low-level baseline), each containing 8 stimuli pairs. There were no group differences in terms of correctly recognized visual pairs. However, during encoding, VPT-born individuals showed increased BOLD signal response compared to controls in left caudate nucleus, right cuneus (BA 18) and left superior parietal lobule (BA 7), and decreased signal in right inferior frontal gyrus (BA 46). During recognition, VPT-born adults showed increased BOLD signal response compared to controls in right cerebellum and in anterior cingulate gyrus (BA 32) bilaterally. The fMRI data were additionally analyzed controlling for structural differences in the hippocampus bilaterally, where the VPT group showed decreased probability of the absolute amount of grey matter compared to controls. Results of our study suggest that despite good task performance, VPT-born individuals activate different neural networks during mnemonic processing of visuo-perceptual material which may indicate neural compensation for the adult consequences of perinatal brain injury following very preterm birth, as well as maturational delays.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Caudate Nucleus / physiology*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / physiology*
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Occipital Lobe / physiology*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Premature Birth
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult