Thalamic changes in a preterm sample with periventricular leukomalacia: correlation with white-matter integrity and cognitive outcome at school age

Pediatr Res. 2012 Apr;71(4 Pt 1):354-60. doi: 10.1038/pr.2011.70. Epub 2012 Feb 15.


Introduction: Thalamic abnormalities have been well documented in preterms with periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), although their contribution to long-term cognitive dysfunctions has not been thoroughly investigated.

Results: Significant differences between groups were observed for global thalamic volume. Neuropsychological assessments showed that preterms with PVL scored within the normal range, although significantly below controls in the full intelligence quotient and the specific cognitive domains of processing speed and working memory. Correlations of several thalamic regions with Working Memory Index and FIQ were found in the PVL group. Moreover, thalamic atrophy correlated with white-matter (WM) damage indexes (fractional anisotropy and radial diffusivity) assessed by diffusion tensor imaging.

Discussion: The findings suggest that thalamic damage is a common correlate of WM microstructural alterations and might be involved in the cognitive deficits seen in premature infants with PVL at school age.

Methods: We analyzed the impact of PVL-associated thalamic injury on cognitive status at school age and its correlation with WM integrity as measured by magnetic resonance imaging techniques. Thalamic volume and shape of 21 preterm children with PVL were compared with those of 11 preterm children of similar gestational age and birth weight with no evidence of focal WM abnormality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anisotropy
  • Brain / pathology
  • Child
  • Cognition
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Leukomalacia, Periventricular / diagnosis*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Thalamus / pathology*