Neonatal neural networks predict children behavioral profiles later in life

Hum Brain Mapp. 2017 Mar;38(3):1362-1373. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23459. Epub 2016 Nov 16.


This study aimed to examine heterogeneity of neonatal brain network and its prediction to child behaviors at 24 and 48 months of age. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) tractography was employed to construct brain anatomical network for 120 neonates. Clustering coefficients of individual structures were computed and used to classify neonates with similar brain anatomical networks into one group. Internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems were assessed using maternal reports of the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) at 24 and 48 months of age. The profile of CBCL externalizing and internalizing behaviors was then examined in the groups identified based on the neonatal brain network. Finally, support vector machine and canonical correlation analysis were used to identify brain structures whose clustering coefficients together significantly contribute the variation of the behaviors at 24 and 48 months of age. Four meaningful groups were revealed based on the brain anatomical networks at birth. Moreover, the clustering coefficients of the brain regions that most contributed to this grouping of neonates were significantly associated with childhood internalizing and externalizing behaviors assessed at 24 and 48 months of age. Specially, the clustering coefficient of the right amygdala was associated with both internalizing and externalizing behaviors at 24 months of age, while the clustering coefficients of the right inferior frontal cortex and insula were associated with externalizing behaviors at 48 months of age. Our findings suggested that neural organization established during fetal development could to some extent predict individual differences in behavioral-emotional problems in early childhood. Hum Brain Mapp 38:1362-1373, 2017. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: anatomical networks; diffusion tensor imaging; externalizing behavior; internalizing behavior; neonatal brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Child Behavior / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • Neural Pathways / growth & development*
  • Support Vector Machine