Structural and functional connectivity in premature neonates

Semin Perinatol. 2021 Nov;45(7):151473. doi: 10.1016/j.semperi.2021.151473. Epub 2021 Aug 20.


Advances in neuroimaging have increasingly enabled researchers to investigate whether alterations in brain development commonly identified in preterm infants underlie their high risk of long-term neurodevelopmental impairment, including sensory, motor, cognitive, and psychiatric deficits. This review begins by examining the growing body of literature utilizing advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to probe structural (via diffusion MRI) and functional (via resting state-functional MRI) connectivity development in the preterm brain during the neonatal period, both in the presence and absence of brain injury. It then details the recent work linking neonatal brain connectivity measures to neurodevelopmental and psychiatric outcomes in prematurely-born cohorts. Finally, building upon the recent substantive growth in the utilization of these neuroimaging modalities, it concludes by highlighting areas in which continued optimization of age-specific acquisition and analysis techniques for these data remains necessary, efforts fundamental to advancing the field toward establishing individual-level predictive capabilities in this high-risk population.

Keywords: Brain Development; Functional and Structural Connectivity; MRI; Neurodevelopmental Outcomes; Prematurity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Neuroimaging