Advanced neuroimaging and its role in predicting neurodevelopmental outcomes in very preterm infants

Semin Perinatol. 2016 Dec;40(8):530-541. doi: 10.1053/j.semperi.2016.09.005. Epub 2016 Nov 15.


Up to 35% of very preterm infants survive with neurodevelopmental impairments (NDI) such as cognitive deficits, cerebral palsy, and attention deficit disorder. Advanced MRI quantitative tools such as brain morphometry, diffusion MRI, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and functional MRI at term-equivalent age are ideally suited to improve current efforts to predict later development of disabilities. This would facilitate application of targeted early intervention therapies during the first few years of life when neuroplasticity is optimal. A systematic search and review identified 47 published studies of advanced MRI to predict NDI. Diffusion MRI and morphometry studies were the most commonly studied modalities. Despite several limitations, studies clearly showed that brain structural and metabolite biomarkers are promising independent predictors of NDI. Large representative multicenter studies are needed to validate these studies.

Keywords: Brain metabolites; Cerebral palsy; Cognitive impairment; Diffusion MRI; Functional MRI; Infant; Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); Magnetic resonance spectroscopy; Microstructure; Morphometry; Neurodevelopmental impairment; Premature.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Developmental Disabilities / diagnostic imaging*
  • Developmental Disabilities / physiopathology
  • Fetal Organ Maturity
  • Humans
  • Infant, Extremely Premature*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / physiopathology
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / trends
  • Neuroimaging* / trends
  • Predictive Value of Tests