Alterations in neural connectivity in preterm children at school age

Neuroimage. 2009 Nov 1;48(2):458-63. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.06.046. Epub 2009 Jun 25.


Converging data suggest recovery from injury in the preterm brain. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to test the hypothesis that cerebral connectivity involving Wernicke's area and other important cortical language regions would differ between preterm (PT) and term (T) control school age children during performance of an auditory language task. Fifty-four PT children (600-1250 g birth weight) and 24 T controls were evaluated using an fMRI passive language task and neurodevelopmental assessments including: the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - III (WISC-III), the Peabody Individual Achievement Test - Revised (PIAT-R) and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test - Revised (PPVT-R) at 8 years of age. Neural activity was assessed for language processing and the data were evaluated for connectivity and correlations to cognitive outcomes. We found that PT subjects scored significantly lower on all components of the WISC-III (p<0.009), the PIAT-R Reading Comprehension test (p=0.013), and the PPVT-R (p=0.001) compared to term subjects. Connectivity analyses revealed significantly stronger neural circuits in PT children between Wernicke's area and the right inferior frontal gyrus (R IFG, Broca's area homologue) and both the left and the right supramarginal gyri (SMG) components of the inferior parietal lobules (p</=0.02 for all). We conclude that PT subjects employ neural systems for auditory language function at school age differently than T controls; these alterations may represent a delay in maturation of neural networks or the engagement of alternate circuits for language processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Language Tests
  • Linear Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / growth & development
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology
  • Wechsler Scales