AUTHORS: Liverani MC, Borradori-Tolda C, Ha-Vinh Leuchter R, Thiran JP, Huppi PS, Fischi-Gomez E

Cerebral Cortex, : , June 2023


Very preterm birth (VPT; <32 weeks’ gestation) leads to a situation where crucial steps of brain development occur in an abnormal ex utero environment, translating to vulnerable cortical and subcortical development. Associated with this atypical brain development, children and adolescents born VPT are at a high risk of socio-emotional difficulties. In the current study, we unravel developmental changes in cortical gray matter (GM) concentration in VPT and term-born controls aged 6–14 years, together with their associations with socio-emotional abilities. T1-weighted images were used to estimate signal intensities of brain tissue types in a single voxel (GM, white matter, and cortico-spinal fluid) and extract GM concentration disentangled from the presence of partial volume effects (PVEs). General linear model analysis was used to compare groups. Socio-emotional abilities were assessed and associations with GM concentration were explored using univariate and multivariate analyses. The effects of prematurity were far-reaching, with intricated patterns of increases and decreases of GM concentration mainly in frontal, temporal, parietal, and cingular regions. Better socio-emotional abilities were associated with increased GM concentration in regions known to be involved in such process for both groups. Our findings suggest that the trajectory of brain development following VPT birth may be fundamentally distinctive and impact socio-emotional abilities.