Preterm birth and adolescent social functioning-alterations in emotion-processing brain areas

Elaine Healy, Abraham Reichenberg, Kie Woo Nam, Matthew P.G. Allin, Muriel Walshe, Larry Rifkin, Sir Robin M. Murray, Chiara Nosarti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Objective To investigate the relationship between preterm birth, adolescent, and adult psychosocial outcomes, and alterations in gray matter volume. Study design Individuals (n = 73) born at <33 weeks of gestation (very preterm) and 49 controls completed the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) at age 15 years to identify 'social immaturity' (SI) cases. Voxel-based morphometry was used to investigate gray matter volumes according to CBCL-SI 'caseness.' The Clinical Interview Schedule-Revised (CIS-R) was administered at age 19 years. Results Very preterm adolescents were almost 4 times more likely to reach CBCL-SI 'caseness' compared with controls. Ex-preterm SI 'cases' had increased gray matter volume in the fusiform gyrus bilaterally (Talairach coordinates: x = 60, y = -27, z = -30; Z = 3.78; x = -61, y = -35, z = -27; Z = 3.56, after correction for multiple comparisons) compared with ex-preterm SI 'noncases.' Left fusiform volume displayed a stronger correlation with ipsilateral orbitofrontal cortex in SI 'cases' (x = -15, y = 22, z = -26; Z = 3.64). CIS-R total scores were slightly higher in ex-preterm individuals compared with controls. In the whole sample, SI 'cases' in midadolescence also had higher CIS-R scores in adulthood compared with 'noncases' (SI 'cases': mean = 5.7, 95% CI = 4.0-7.4; SI 'noncases': mean = 2.7, 95% CI = 1.1-4.3; F = 6.4, df = 74; P =.013). Conclusions Ex-preterm adolescents had increased socialization problems in adolescence, which were associated with volumetric alterations in an emotion-processing brain network. Atypical social development is linked to an increased vulnerability to psychiatric disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1596-1604
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pediatrics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


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