The corpus callosum is the largest white matter tract, important for interhemispheric communication. The aim of this study was to investigate and compare corpus callosum size, shape and diffusion characteristics in 106 very preterm infants and 22 full-term infants. Structural and diffusion magnetic resonance images were obtained at term equivalent. The corpus callosum was segmented, cross-sectional areas were calculated, and shape was analyzed. Fractional anisotropy, mean, axial and radial diffusivity measures were obtained from within the corpus callosum, with additional probabilistic tractography analysis. Very preterm infants had significantly reduced callosal cross-sectional area compared with term infants (p=0.004), particularly for the mid-body and posterior sub-regions. Very preterm callosi were more circular (p=0.01). Fractional anisotropy was lower (p=0.007) and mean (p=0.006) and radial (p=0.001) diffusivity values were higher in very preterm infants' callosi, particularly at the anterior and posterior ends. The volume of tracts originating from the corpus callosum was reduced in very preterm infants (p=0.001), particularly for anterior mid-body (p=0.01) and isthmus tracts (p=0.04). This study characterizes callosal size, shape and diffusion in typically developing infants at term equivalent age, and reports macrostructural and microstructural abnormalities as a result of prematurity.
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