Decreased amygdala volume in adults after premature birth

Sci Rep. 2021 Mar 8;11(1):5403. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-84906-2.


Premature-born infants have impaired amygdala structure, presumably due to increased stress levels of premature birth mediated by the amygdala. However, accounting for lifelong plasticity of amygdala, it is unclear whether such structural changes persist into adulthood. To address this problem, we stated the following questions: first, are whole amygdala volumes reduced in premature-born adults? And second, as adult anxiety traits are often increased after prematurity and linked with amygdala structure, are alterations in amygdala associated with adults' anxiety traits after premature birth? We addressed these questions by automated amygdala segmentation of MRI volumes in 101 very premature-born adults (< 32 weeks of gestation and/or birth weight below 1500 g) and 108 full-term controls at 26 years of age of a prospectively and longitudinally collected cohort. We found significantly lower whole amygdala volumes in premature-born adults. While premature-born adults had significantly higher T score for avoidant personality reflecting increased social anxiety trait, this trait was not correlated with amygdala volume alterations. Results demonstrate reduced amygdala volumes in premature born adults. Data suggest lasting effects of prematurity on amygdala structure.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala* / diagnostic imaging
  • Amygdala* / growth & development
  • Anxiety / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Premature Birth*