A new study by Canadian researchers shows that preterm infants who grow more slowly as they approach their would-be due dates also have slower development in the cerebral cortex. The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, involved analyzing MRI brain scans of 95 preterm infants born 8 to 16 weeks early at BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre between 2006 and 2009.
Infants were scanned soon after birth and a second time close to what would have been their due date. These MRI scans allowed researchers to measure the pattern of water movement inside the brain, which normally changes between scans as the brain matures. The researchers also assessed the babies’ weight, length, and head size. They found that preterm infants with slower growth had delayed development in the cerebral cortex compared with those infants who grew more quickly between scans.
The study results will help physicians understand the importance of growth in relation to the brain in babies who are born prematurely, and potentially lead to new discoveries to help optimize brain development in preterm infants.
The study can be viewed at: http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/5/168/168ra8.
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