Introduction Very preterm birth is frequently followed by altered brain development which may result in impaired cerebral tissue growth. We investigated the growth of white (WM) and grey matter (GM) and their relationship with cognitive function in children at 9 years.
Objectives To compare WM and GM volumes between very preterm born children and controls and to correlate them with cognitive function.
Methods Children<31 weeks of gestation participated along with term born schoolmates matched by age and gender. MRI at 1.5T with MP-RAGE sequence was acquired. FSL (FMRIB Oxford) was used to automatically segment the brain into GM, WM and CSF. Cognitive function was evaluated using WISC-IV.
Results 26 very preterm (median gestational age was 28.2 weeks) and 15 term controls were studied at a median age of 9.8 years. WM volume was reduced by 15% and GM volume by 9.5% in preterm children compared to controls. No significant correlations with cognitive scores were observed in the control group. In the preterm group, WM volume was correlated with perceptual reasoning and full scale scores whereas GM volumes were correlated with full scale and all subscale scores except verbal comprehension (table)
The reduction in WM volume in preterm born children was more marked than for GM. The WM volumes were related to cognitive scores but less strongly than GM.