Aim To examine how healthy preschoolers born very preterm (VPT) with and without significant movement impairments differ from full term (FT) controls in subcortical brain volume measures and white matter diffusion properties. Method A case-control, observational study of fifty-four VPT-born and 32 FT-born children were administered the Movement Assessment Battery for Children – Second Edition (MABC-2) and underwent MRI within 6-months of starting kindergarten. Selected subcortical structural volumes, fractional anisotropy (FA), and mean diffusivity (MD) of selected white matter tracts were compared across VPT children with movement impairments (VPT-abnormal), and VPT and FT children without movement impairments. Results The VPT-abnormal group had higher MD in the corpus callosum and inferior frontal-occipital fasciculus and lower FA in the anterior thalamic radiations, corpus callosum, and cingulum than the FT group. The forceps major was particularly affected in the VPT-abnormal group compared with the VPT and FT groups without movement impairments. Both VPT groups had reduced brainstem and cerebellar white matter volumes and larger lateral ventricles compared to the FT group. Interpretation Movement impairments in healthy VPT preschoolers were associated with more abnormalities in white matter integrity and reduced subcortical brain volumes most likely reflecting a greater extent of white matter damage associated with their very preterm birth.
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