Background: Preterm birth is associated with an increased risk of neonatal brain injury, which can lead to alterations in brain maturation. Advances in neonatal care have dramatically reduced the incidence of the most significant medical consequences of preterm birth. Relatively healthy preterm infants remain at increased risk for subtle injuries that impact future neurodevelopmental and functioning. Aims: To investigate the gray matter morphometry measures of cortical thickness, surface area, and sulcal depth in the brain using magnetic resonance imaging at 5 years of age in healthy children born very preterm. Study design: Cohort study Subjects: Participants were 52 children born very preterm (VPT; less than 33 weeks gestational age) and 37 children born full term. Outcome measures: Cortical segmentation and calculation of morphometry measures were completed using FreeSurfer version 5.3.0 and compared between groups using voxel-wise, surface-based analyses. Results: The VPT group had a significantly thinner cortex in temporal and parietal regions as well as thicker gray matter in the occipital and inferior frontal regions. Reduced surface area was found in the fusiform area in the VPT group. Sulcal depth was also lower in the VPT group within the posterior parietal and inferior temporal regions and greater sulcal depth was found in the middle temporal and medial parietal regions. Results in some of these regions were correlated with gestational age at birth in the VPT group. Conclusions: The most widespread differences between the VPT and FT groups were found in cortical thickness. These findings may represent a combination of delayed maturation and permanent alterations caused by the perinatal processes associated with very preterm birth.
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