Background Children born preterm present a higher risk of psychiatric disorders during adolescence.
Aim To assess whether psychiatric symptoms are associated with changes in cortical thickness and volumes of thalamus and cerebellum in very low birth weight (VLBW) adolescents.
Design/methods Fifty VLBW (birth weight ≤1500 g) and 57 term control adolescents were assessed at 14–15 years of age with: Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children, Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ Mother Report), Autism Spectrum Screening Questionnaire (ASSQ), and Children’s Global Assessment Scale (CGAS). Cortical thickness (mm) and volumes of thalamus and cerebellum (ml) were obtained using an automated MRI segmentation technique (Freesurfer). Associations were analysed by linear and ordinal logistic regression, adjusted for age, gender and total intracranial volume, and corrected for multiple comparisons (Benjamini-Hochberg).
Results VLBW adolescents had more psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses than controls. On MRI, they had several areas with thinner cortex, including the entorhinal cortex, and areas of thicker cortex, including the insula, compared to controls. Higher SDQ Emotional symptoms scores were associated with thicker insular cortex (Left: B=0.418 (0.192 to 0.644), p = 0.001; Right: B=0.243 (0.061 to 0.426), p = 0.010). Smaller cerebellar WM volumes were associated with higher SDQ Hyperactivity scores (Left: B=-0.638 (-1.101 to -0.176), p = 0.008; Right: B=-0.551 (-0.966 to -0.137), p = 0.010) and lower CGAS scores (Left: B=4.653 (2.182 to 7.123), p < 0.001; Right: B=4.255 (2.073 to 6.437), p < 0.001).
Conclusion Our results indicate that psychiatric symptoms in VLBW adolescents may be related to structural brain anomalies in cerebellar white matter and insular cortex.
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