Effects of preterm birth on cortical thickness measured in adolescence

Cereb Cortex. 2011 Feb;21(2):300-6. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhq095. Epub 2010 Jun 3.


Despite the extensive research into brain development after preterm birth, few studies have investigated its long-term effects on cortical thickness. The Stockholm Neonatal Project included infants between 1988 and 1993 with birth weight (BW) ≤ 1500 g. Using a previously published method, cortical thickness was estimated on T(1)-weighted 3D anatomical images acquired from 74 ex-preterm and 69 term-born adolescents (mean age 14.92 years). The cortex was significantly thinner in ex-preterm individuals in focal regions of the temporal and parietal cortices as indicated by voxel-wise t-tests. In addition, large regions around the central sulcus and temporal lobe as well as parts of the frontal and occipital lobes tended also to be thinner in the ex-preterm group. Although these results were not significant on voxel-wise tests, the spatially coherent arrangement of the thinning in ex-preterm individuals made it notable. When the group of ex-preterm individuals was divided by gestational age or BW, the thinning tended to be more pronounced in the anterior and posterior poles in those born nearer term or with a BW closer to 1500 g. These results support the notion that preterm birth is a risk factor for long-term development of cortical thickness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex* / growth & development
  • Cerebral Cortex* / pathology
  • Cerebral Cortex* / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Premature Birth / pathology*