Subregional hippocampal morphology and psychiatric outcome in adolescents who were born very preterm and at term

James H. Cole, Maria Laura Filippetti, Matthew P.G. Allin, Muriel Walshe, Kie Woo Nam, Boris A. Gutman, Robin M. Murray, Larry Rifkin, Paul M. Thompson, Chiara Nosarti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: The hippocampus has been reported to be structurally and functionally altered as a sequel of very preterm birth (<33 weeks gestation), possibly due its vulnerability to hypoxic-ischemic damage in the neonatal period. We examined hippocampal volumes and subregional morphology in very preterm born individuals in mid- and late adolescence and their association with psychiatric outcome. Methods: Structural brain magnetic resonance images were acquired at two time points (baseline and follow-up) from 65 ex-preterm adolescents (mean age = 15.5 and 19.6 years) and 36 termborn controls (mean age=15.0 and 19.0 years). Hippocampal volumes and subregional morphometric differences were measured from manual tracings and with three-dimensional shape analysis. Psychiatric outcome was assessed with the Rutter Parents' Scale at baseline, the General Health Questionnaire at follow-up and the Peters Delusional Inventory at both time points. Results: In contrast to previous studies we did not find significant difference in the cross-sectional or longitudinal hippocampal volumes between individuals born preterm and controls, despite preterm individual having significantly smaller whole brain volumes. Shape analysis at baseline revealed subregional deformations in 28% of total bilateral hippocampal surface, reflecting atrophy, in ex-preterm individuals compared to controls, and in 22% at follow-up. In ex-preterm individuals, longitudinal changes in hippocampal shape accounted for 11% of the total surface, while in controls they reached 20%. In the whole sample (both groups) larger right hippocampal volume and bilateral anterior surface deformations at baseline were associated with delusional ideation scores at follow-up. Conclusions: This study suggests a dynamic association between cross-sectional hippocampal volumes, longitudinal changes and surface deformations and psychosis proneness.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0130094
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
StatePublished - 19 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes


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