Decreased and Increased Anisotropy along Major Cerebral White Matter Tracts in Preterm Children and Adolescents

PLoS One. 2015 Nov 11;10(11):e0142860. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0142860. eCollection 2015.


Premature birth is highly prevalent and associated with neurodevelopmental delays and disorders. Adverse outcomes, particularly in children born before 32 weeks of gestation, have been attributed in large part to white matter injuries, often found in periventricular regions using conventional imaging. To date, tractography studies of white matter pathways in children and adolescents born preterm have evaluated only a limited number of tracts simultaneously. The current study compares diffusion properties along 18 major cerebral white matter pathways in children and adolescents born preterm (n = 27) and full term (n = 19), using diffusion magnetic resonance imaging and tractography. We found that compared to the full term group, the preterm group had significantly decreased FA in segments of the bilateral uncinate fasciculus and anterior segments of the right inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus. Additionally, the preterm group had significantly increased FA in segments of the right and left anterior thalamic radiations, posterior segments of the right inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, and the right and left inferior longitudinal fasciculus. Increased FA in the preterm group was generally associated with decreased radial diffusivity. These findings indicate that prematurity-related white matter differences in later childhood and adolescence do not affect all tracts in the periventricular zone and can involve both decreased and increased FA. Differences in the patterns of radial diffusivity and axial diffusivity suggest that the tissue properties underlying group FA differences may vary within and across white matter tracts. Distinctive diffusion properties may relate to variations in the timing of injury in the neonatal period, extent of white matter dysmaturity and/or compensatory processes in childhood.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anisotropy
  • Brain / pathology
  • Child
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Male
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology
  • White Matter / pathology*