Slower growth in preterm infants found to alter brain development

February 14, 2013

NeuroDevNet Principal Investigators Dr. Ruth Grunau and Dr. Steven Miller have published a study showing that preterm infants who are growing more slowly at what would have been their full term due date also show slower development of the cerebral cortex.

Published February 14 online in Science Translational Medicine, the study involved analysis of MRI brain scans of 95 preterm infants born eight to 16 weeks premature. Drs. Grunau and Miller began scanning the infants soon after birth in 2006, and again at what would have been the infants' due dates. Scanning was completed in 2009. 

The cerebral cortex, a two-to-four millimetre layer of cells enveloping the top part of the brain, is involved in cognitive, behavioural, and motor functions. MRI scanning enabled the researchers to assess cortical development by measuring the movement of water in the brain, which changes as the brain matures. Drs. Grunau and Miller, now head of neurology at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), and the Bloorview Children’s Hospital Chair in Paediatric Neuroscience, found that slower growth in preterm infants was associated with delayed development in the cerebral cortex, compared to those infants who grew more quickly between scans.

The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

To read more about "Slower Postnatal Growth is Associated with Delayed Cerebral Cortical Maturation in Preterm Newborns," and the researchers, visit the CFRI website.