Background and aims Preterm birth is associated with adverse brain development, mathematic impairments, and life-long educational and economic underachievement. It was investigated whether children’s mathematic abilites are associated with changes in intrinsic functional connectivity (iFC) of fronto-parietal networks in young adulthood and if this relationship interacts with a history of preterm birth.
Methods 73 preterm (25–36 weeks gestational age) and 72 full-term (38–41 weeks gestational age) participants were studied as part of a prospective geographically defined longitudinal investigation of neonatal at-risk children in South Germany (Bavarian Longitudinal Study). Mathematic abilities were assessed with a standardised test at age 8 years and iFC with resting state fMRI at 26 years. Independent component analysis (ICA) of imaging data was used to identify fronto-parietal intrinsic networks of interest with main outcome measure maps reflecting network iFC.
Results In both groups, mathematic abilities in childhood were associated with adults’ iFC in fronto-parietal networks. However, for preterm born adults, this association was specifically altered in the left fronto-parietal network and the right ventral attention network when compared with term born adults (i.e., better maths abilities were associated with increased iFC in preterm and decreased iFC in term control adults).
Conclusions Our results show that childhood mathematical abilities are associated with fronto-parietal intrinsic connectivity in adulthood. More importantly, this association interacts with preterm birth, suggesting differential maths-related long-term neurodevelopmental trajectories for preterm and term born individuals that may elucidate compensatory neural mechanisms.