Objective: To examine whether specific neonatal factors differentially influence cerebellar subregional volumes and to investigate relationships between subregional volumes and outcomes in very preterm children at 7 years of age.
Study design: Fifty-six children born very preterm (24-32 weeks gestational age) followed longitudinally from birth underwent 3-dimensional T(1)-weighted neuroimaging at median age 7.6 years. Children with severe brain injury were excluded. Cerebellar subregions were automatically segmented using the multiple automatically generated templates algorithm. The relation between cerebellum subregional volumes (adjusted for total brain volume and sex) and neonatal clinical factors were examined using constrained principal component analysis. Cognitive and visual-motor integration functions in relation to cerebellar volumes were also investigated.
Results: Higher neonatal procedural pain and infection, as well as other clinical factors, were differentially associated with reduced cerebellar volumes in specific subregions. After adjusting for clinical risk factors, neonatal procedural pain was distinctively associated with smaller volumes bilaterally in the posterior VIIIA and VIIIB lobules. Specific smaller cerebellar subregional volumes were related to poorer cognition and motor/visual integration.
Conclusions: In very preterm children, exposure to painful procedures, as well as additional neonatal risk factors such as infection, were associated with reduced cerebellar volumes in specific subregions and poorer outcomes at school age.
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