Brain size in premature infants significantly smaller than full-term babies

n special education or receiving extensive resource room help," she said. "One-fifth have already repeated a grade of school. This study of very low birth weight infants who have been followed since six hours of age provides important insights into the adaptive mechanisms of the developing brain. From these studies, risk factors can be examined and interventions tested."

The brain volume in the children was measured on computer graphic work stations with fine grain manual definitions of regions of the brain. There were significant differences in the cortical subdivisions, ventricular system, cerebellum, basal ganglia, corpus callosum, amygdala and hippocampus. Peterson said the size disparity was greatest in sensorimotor regions, as well as in premotor, midtemporal, parieto-occipital and subgenual cortices on both sides of the brain.

The size of sensorimotor and temporal cortices were associated with verbal and performance IQ scores. "The greater the volume of abnormalities, especially in the cortical regions, the lower the IQ measures," Peterson said.

He said the study would be useful from two perspectives.

"The study shows that when brains develop prematurely outside of the womb, they are vulnerable to developmental disturbances. We now need to find out what precisely is responsible for the problems with brain development in these infants from a missing unidentified growth factor, to the absence of physiological buffering by the mothers uterus, to the many medical problems associated with prematurity," Peterson said. "From a clinical standpoint, the results of this study show that we need to look earlier in life for the presence of these same abnormalities in prematurely born children so that we can identify for early therapeutic intervention those children who are at the greatest risk for the cognitive and behavioral difficulties that are associated with these disturbances in brain development."

The research was funded by the Natio

Contact: Jacqueline Weaver
Yale University

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