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Preterm birth is a global health problem and associated with increased risk of long-term developmental impairments, but findings on the adverse outcomes of prematurity have been inconsistent.
Data were obtained from the baseline session of the ongoing longitudinal Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study. We identified 1706 preterm children and 1865 matched individuals as Control group and compared brain structure (MRI data), cognitive function and mental health symptoms.
Results showed that preterm children had higher psychopathological risk and lower cognitive function scores compared to controls. Structural MRI analysis indicated that preterm children had higher cortical thickness in the medial orbitofrontal cortex, parahippocampal gyrus, temporal and occipital gyrus; smaller volumes in the temporal and parietal gyrus, cerebellum, insula and thalamus; and smaller fiber tract volumes in the fornix and parahippocampal-cingulum bundle. Partial correlation analyses showed that gestational age and birth weight were associated with ADHD symptoms, picvocab, flanker, reading, fluid cognition composite, crystallized cognition composite and total cognition composite scores, and measures of brain structure in regions involved with emotional regulation, attention and cognition.
These findings suggest a complex interplay between psychopathological risk and cognitive deficits in preterm children that is associated with changes in regional brain volumes, cortical thickness, and structural connectivity among cortical and limbic brain regions critical for cognition and emotional well-being.
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