Hippocampal alterations and functional correlates in adolescents and young adults with congenital heart disease

Hum Brain Mapp. 2019 Aug 15;40(12):3548-3560. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24615. Epub 2019 May 9.


There is a high prevalence of neurodevelopmental impairments in individuals living with congenital heart disease (CHD) and the neural correlates of these impairments are not yet fully understood. Recent studies have shown that hippocampal volume and shape differences may provide unique biomarkers for neurodevelopmental disorders. The hippocampus is vulnerable to early life injury, especially in populations at risk for hypoxemia or hemodynamic instability such as in neonates with CHD. We compared hippocampal gray and white matter volume and morphometry between youth born with CHD (n = 50) aged 16-24 years and healthy peers (n = 48). We also explored whether hippocampal gray and white matter volume and morphometry are associated with executive function and self-regulation deficits. To do so, participants underwent 3T brain magnetic resonance imaging and completed the self-reported Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function-Adult version. We found that youth with CHD had smaller hippocampal volumes (all statistics corrected for false discovery rate; q < 0.05) as compared to controls. We also observed significant smaller surface area bilaterally and inward displacement on the left hippocampus predominantly on the ventral side (q < 0.10) in the CHD group that were not present in the controls. Left CA1 and CA2/3 were negatively associated with working memory (p < .05). Here, we report, for the first-time, hippocampal morphometric alterations in youth born with CHD when compared to healthy peers, as well as, structure-function relationships between hippocampal volumes and executive function. These differences may reflect long lasting alterations in brain development specific to individual with CHD.

Keywords: congenital heart disease; executive function; hippocampus; magnetic resonance imaging; neurodevelopment; self-regulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / diagnostic imaging*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / physiopathology*
  • Hippocampus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / trends
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Organ Size / physiology
  • Young Adult