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Study: Neonatal MRI scans of preterm children can help predict cognitive and academic problems, and guide early interventions

Localized brain regions associated with early mathematics

Pre­dict­ing future cog­ni­tion in preterm chil­dren with MRI (Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press blog):

In the wake of the devel­op­ment of advanced neona­tal inten­sive med­ical care, more and more chil­dren born preterm man­age to beat the pre­vi­ous­ly tough odds…While this is one of the suc­cess sto­ries of mod­ern med­i­cine, long-term fol­low-up of pre­ma­ture-born pedi­atric cohorts show that…Many chil­dren will expe­ri­ence cog­ni­tive prob­lems that will impede their per­for­mance when they start school…

One ques­tion that remains to be answered is the bio­log­i­cal under­pin­nings of the cog­ni­tive dif­fi­cul­ties expe­ri­enced by preterm children…the brain alter­ations caus­ing dif­fi­cul­ties in school must be assumed to be already present when the chil­dren have gone through the neona­tal peri­od, long before they man­i­fest in school dif­fi­cul­ties. Our recent­ly pub­lished study in Brain aimed to bring advanced analy­ses of MRI data to address the ques­tion of hid­den pre­dic­tors in preterm children…Not only could cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty at five and sev­en years of age be pre­dict­ed from the neona­tal MRI, the effect also per­sist­ed after tak­ing into account all clin­i­cal fac­tors dur­ing the neona­tal peri­od that we pre­vi­ous­ly know affect the prog­no­sis of preterm chil­dren. The results illus­trate how neona­tal MRI of preterm chil­dren can be of prac­ti­cal ben­e­fit as it opens up a time win­dow for inter­ven­tions before the chil­dren start school.”

Study: Neona­tal MRI is asso­ci­at­ed with future cog­ni­tion and aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment in preterm chil­dren (Brain). From the sum­ma­ry:

  • School-age chil­dren born preterm are par­tic­u­lar­ly at risk for low math­e­mat­i­cal achieve­ment, asso­ci­at­ed with reduced work­ing mem­o­ry and num­ber skills. Ear­ly iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of preterm chil­dren at risk for future impair­ments using brain mark­ers might assist in refer­ral for ear­ly inter­ven­tion. This study aimed to exam­ine the use of neona­tal mag­net­ic res­o­nance imag­ing mea­sures derived from auto­mat­ed meth­ods to pre­dict skills impor­tant for math­e­mat­i­cal achieve­ment (work­ing mem­o­ry, ear­ly math­e­mat­i­cal skills) at 5 and 7 years in a cohort of preterm chil­dren …Neona­tal frac­tion­al anisotropy was pos­i­tive­ly asso­ci­at­ed with work­ing mem­o­ry and ear­ly math­e­mat­ics at 5 years…In sum­ma­ry, we iden­ti­fied, in the preterm brain, regions around the insu­la and puta­men using neona­tal defor­ma­tion-based mor­phom­e­try, and brain microstruc­tur­al orga­ni­za­tion using neona­tal dif­fu­sion ten­sor imag­ing, asso­ci­at­ed with skills impor­tant for child­hood math­e­mat­i­cal achieve­ment. Results con­tribute to the grow­ing evi­dence for the clin­i­cal util­i­ty of neona­tal mag­net­ic res­o­nance imag­ing for ear­ly iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of preterm infants at risk for child­hood cog­ni­tive and aca­d­e­m­ic impair­ment.

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