Cortical Gray Matter Injury in Encephalopathy of Prematurity: Link to Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Front Neurol. 2020 Jul 14;11:575. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2020.00575. eCollection 2020.


Preterm-born infants frequently suffer from an array of neurological damage, collectively termed encephalopathy of prematurity (EoP). They also have an increased risk of presenting with a neurodevelopmental disorder (e.g., autism spectrum disorder; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) later in life. It is hypothesized that it is the gray matter injury to the cortex, in addition to white matter injury, in EoP that is responsible for the altered behavior and cognition in these individuals. However, although it is established that gray matter injury occurs in infants following preterm birth, the exact nature of these changes is not fully elucidated. Here we will review the current state of knowledge in this field, amalgamating data from both clinical and preclinical studies. This will be placed in the context of normal processes of developmental biology and the known pathophysiology of neurodevelopmental disorders. Novel diagnostic and therapeutic tactics required integration of this information so that in the future we can combine mechanism-based approaches with patient stratification to ensure the most efficacious and cost-effective clinical practice.

Keywords: MRI; brain injury; development; functional activity; inflammation; neuropathology; preterm; synaptopathy.

Publication types

  • Review