White Matter Injury and General Movements in High-Risk Preterm Infants

AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2017 Jan;38(1):162-169. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A4955. Epub 2016 Oct 27.


Background and purpose: Very preterm infants (birth weight, <1500 g) are at increased risk of cognitive and motor impairment, including cerebral palsy. These adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes are associated with white matter abnormalities on MR imaging at term-equivalent age. Cerebral palsy has been predicted by analysis of spontaneous movements in the infant termed "General Movement Assessment." The goal of this study was to determine the utility of General Movement Assessment in predicting adverse cognitive, language, and motor outcomes in very preterm infants and to identify brain imaging markers associated with both adverse outcomes and aberrant general movements.

Materials and methods: In this prospective study of 47 preterm infants of 24-30 weeks' gestation, brain MR imaging was performed at term-equivalent age. Infants underwent T1- and T2-weighted imaging for volumetric analysis and DTI. General movements were assessed at 10-15 weeks' postterm age, and neurodevelopmental outcomes were evaluated at 2 years by using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development III.

Results: Nine infants had aberrant general movements and were more likely to have adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes, compared with infants with normal movements. In infants with aberrant movements, Tract-Based Spatial Statistics analysis identified significantly lower fractional anisotropy in widespread white matter tracts, including the corpus callosum, inferior longitudinal and fronto-occipital fasciculi, internal capsule, and optic radiation. The subset of infants having both aberrant movements and abnormal neurodevelopmental outcomes in cognitive, language, and motor skills had significantly lower fractional anisotropy in specific brain regions.

Conclusions: Aberrant general movements at 10-15 weeks' postterm are associated with adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes and specific white matter microstructure abnormalities for cognitive, language, and motor delays.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cerebral Palsy / diagnosis
  • Cerebral Palsy / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Extremely Premature* / growth & development
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / etiology*
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / pathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging*
  • White Matter / growth & development
  • White Matter / pathology