White matter abnormalities and impaired attention abilities in children born very preterm

Murray, Andrea L., Thompson, Deanne K., Pascoe, Leona, Leemans, Alexander, Inder, Terrie E., Doyle, Lex W., Anderson, Jacqueline F I, Anderson, Peter J.


Neuroimage 124 p. 75-84


While attention impairments are commonly observed in very preterm (<. 32. weeks' gestational age) children, neuroanatomical correlates of these difficulties are unclear. We aimed to determine whether the microstructural organization of key white matter tracts thought to be involved in attention (cingulum bundle, superior longitudinal fasciculi, reticular activating system, and corpus callosum) were altered in very preterm children compared with term-born controls. We also aimed to determine whether alterations in microstructural organization of these tracts were associated with attention functioning in very preterm children. One hundred and forty-nine very preterm children and 36 term-born controls underwent neuroimaging and assessment of their attention abilities at 7. years. Constrained spherical deconvolution and probabilistic tractography was used to identify the key white matter tracts. Altered microstructural organization and reduced tract volume within reticular activating system and corpus callosum were found in the very preterm group compared with the control group. Diffusion and volume changes in the cingulum bundle, superior longitudinal fasciculi, reticular activating system, and corpus callosum were related to variations in attention functioning in the very preterm children. These findings emphasize that white matter tract integrity is associated with later attentional abilities in very preterm children.