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    ABSTRACT: White matter injury and abnormal maturation are thought to be major contributors to the neurodevelopmental disabilities observed in children and adolescents who were born preterm. Early detection of abnormal white matter maturation is important in the design of preventive, protective, and rehabilitative strategies for the management of the preterm infant. Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (d-MRI) has become a valuable tool in assessing white matter maturation and injury in survivors of preterm birth. In this review, we aim to (1) describe the basic concepts of d-MRI; (2) evaluate the methods that are currently used to analyse d-MRI; (3) discuss neuroimaging correlates of preterm brain injury observed at term corrected age; during infancy, adolescence and in early adulthood; and (4) explore the relationship between d-MRI measures and subsequent neurodevelopmental performance. References for this review were identified through searches of PubMed and Google Scholar before March 2013. The impact of premature birth on cerebral white matter can be observed from term-equivalent age through to adulthood. Disruptions to white matter development, identified by d-MRI, are related to diminished performance in functional domains including motor performance, cognition and behaviour in early childhood and in later life. d-MRI is an effective tool for investigating preterm white matter injury. With advances in image acquisition and analysis approaches, d-MRI has the potential to be a biomarker of subsequent outcome and to evaluate efficacy of clinical interventions in this population.
    Neuroradiology 08/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Cortical maturation was studied in 65 infants between 27 and 46 wk postconception using structural and diffusion magnetic resonance imaging. Alterations in neural structure and complexity were inferred from changes in mean diffusivity and fractional anisotropy, analyzed by sampling regions of interest and also by a unique whole-cortex mapping approach. Mean diffusivity was higher in gyri than sulci and in frontal compared with occipital lobes, decreasing consistently throughout the study period. Fractional anisotropy declined until 38 wk, with initial values and rates of change higher in gyri, frontal and temporal poles, and parietal cortex; and lower in sulcal, perirolandic, and medial occipital cortex. Neuroanatomical studies and experimental diffusion-anatomic correlations strongly suggested the interpretation that cellular and synaptic complexity and density increased steadily throughout the period, whereas elongation and branching of dendrites orthogonal to cortical columns was later and faster in higher-order association cortex, proceeding rapidly before becoming undetectable after 38 wk. The rate of microstructural maturation correlated locally with cortical growth, and predicted higher neurodevelopmental test scores at 2 y of age. Cortical microstructural development was reduced in a dose-dependent fashion by longer premature exposure to the extrauterine environment, and preterm infants at term-corrected age possessed less mature cortex than term-born infants. The results are compatible with predictions of the tension theory of cortical growth and show that rapidly developing cortical microstructure is vulnerable to the effects of premature birth, suggesting a mechanism for the adverse effects of preterm delivery on cognitive function. Link https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/files/7917360/PNAS_2013_Ball_1301652110_earlyEdition.pdf
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 05/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Xenon, a monoatomic gas with very high tissue solubility, is a non-competitive inhibitor of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) glutamate receptor, has antiapoptotic effects and is neuroprotective following hypoxic ischaemic injury in animals. Xenon may be expected to have anticonvulsant effects through glutamate receptor blockade, but this has not previously been demonstrated clinically. We examined seizure activity on the real time and amplitude integrated EEG records of 14 full-term infants with perinatal asphyxial encephalopathy treated within 12 h of birth with 30% inhaled xenon for 24 h combined with 72 h of moderate systemic hypothermia. Seizures were identified on 5 of 14 infants. Seizures stopped during xenon therapy but recurred within a few minutes of withdrawing xenon and stopped again after xenon was restarted. Our data show that subanaesthetic levels of xenon may have an anticonvulsant effect. Inhaled xenon may be a valuable new therapy in this hard-to-treat population.
    Archives of Disease in Childhood - Fetal and Neonatal Edition 04/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Cerebral white-matter injury is common in preterm-born infants and is associated with neurocognitive impairments. Identifying the pattern of connectivity changes in the brain following premature birth may provide a more comprehensive understanding of the neurobiology underlying these impairments. Here, we characterize whole-brain, macrostructural connectivity following preterm delivery and explore the influence of age and prematurity using a data-driven, nonsubjective analysis of diffusion magnetic resonance imaging data. T1- and T2-weighted and -diffusion MRI were obtained between 11 and 31 months postconceptional age in 49 infants, born between 25 and 35 weeks postconception. An optimized processing pipeline, combining anatomical, and tissue segmentations with probabilistic diffusion tractography, was used to map mean tract anisotropy. White-matter tracts where connection strength was related to age of delivery or imaging were identified using sparse-penalized regression and stability selection. Older children had stronger connections in tracts predominantly involving frontal lobe structures. Increasing prematurity at birth was related to widespread reductions in connection strength in tracts involving all cortical lobes and several subcortical structures. This nonsubjective approach to mapping whole-brain connectivity detected hypothesized changes in the strength of intracerebral connections during development and widespread reductions in connectivity strength associated with premature birth.
    Cerebral Cortex 03/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Mild cerebral ventricular enlargement is associated with schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Fetal ventriculomegaly is the most common central nervous system (CNS) abnormality affecting 1% of fetuses and is associated with cognitive, language, and behavioral impairments in childhood. Neurodevelopmental outcome is partially predictable by the 2-dimensional size of the ventricles in the absence of other abnormalities. We hypothesized that isolated fetal ventriculomegaly is a marker of altered brain development characterized by relative overgrowth and aimed to quantify brain growth using volumetric magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in fetuses with isolated ventriculomegaly. Fetal brain MRI (1.5 T) was performed in 60 normal fetuses and 65 with isolated ventriculomegaly, across a gestational age range of 22-38 weeks. Volumetric analysis of the ventricles and supratentorial brain structures was performed on 3-dimensional reconstructed datasets. Fetuses with isolated ventriculomegaly had increased brain parenchyma volumes when compared with the control cohort (9.6%, P < 0.0001) with enlargement restricted to the cortical gray matter (17.2%, P = 0.002). The extracerebral cerebrospinal fluid and third and fourth ventricles were also enlarged. White matter, basal ganglia, and thalamic volumes were not significantly different between cohorts. The presence of relative cortical overgrowth in fetuses with ventriculomegaly may represent the neurobiological substrate for cognitive, language, and behavioral deficits in these children.
    Cerebral Cortex 03/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Early neuroimaging may provide a surrogate marker for brain development and outcome after preterm birth. Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS) is an advanced Diffusion Tensor Image (DTI) analysis technique that is sensitive to the effects of prematurity and may provide a quantitative marker for neuroprotection following perinatal brain injury or preterm birth. Here, we test the sensitivity of TBSS to detect diffuse microstructural differences in the developing white matter of preterm infants at term-equivalent age by modelling a 'treatment' effect as a global increase in fractional anisotropy (FA). As proof of concept we compare these simulations to a real effect of increasing age at scan. 3-Tesla, 15-direction diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was acquired from 90 preterm infants at term-equivalent age. Datasets were randomly assigned to 'treated' or 'untreated' groups of increasing size and voxel-wise increases in FA were used to simulate global treatment effects of increasing magnitude in all 'treated' maps. 'Treated' and 'untreated' FA maps were compared using TBSS. Predictions from simulated data were then compared to exemplar TBSS group comparisons based on increasing postmenstrual age at scan. TBSS proved sensitive to global differences in FA within a clinically relevant range, even in relatively small group sizes, and simulated data were shown to predict well a true biological effect of increasing age on white matter development. These data confirm that TBSS is a sensitive tool for detecting global group-wise differences in FA in this population.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(7):e67706.
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