The neonatal connectome during preterm brain development

Martijn P. Van Den Heuvel, Karina J. Kersbergen, Marcel A. De Reus, Kristin Keunen, René S. Kahn, Floris Groenendaal, Linda S. De Vries, Manon J.N.L. Benders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

238 Scopus citations


The human connectome is the result of an elaborate developmental trajectory. Acquiring diffusion-weighted imaging and resting-state fMRI, we studied connectome formation during the preterm phase of macroscopic connectome genesis. In total, 27 neonates were scanned at week 30 and/or week 40 gestational age (GA). Examining the architecture of the neonatal anatomical brain network revealed a clear presence of a small-world modular organization before term birth. Analysis of neonatal functional connectivity (FC) showed the early formation of resting-state networks, suggesting that functional networks are present in the preterm brain, albeit being in an immature state. Moreover, structural and FC patterns of the neonatal brain network showed strong overlap with connectome architecture of the adult brain (85 and 81%, respectively). Analysis of brain development between week 30 and week 40 GA revealed clear developmental effects in neonatal connectome architecture, including a significant increase in white matter microstructure (P < 0.01), smallworld topology (P < 0.01) and interhemispheric FC (P < 0.01). Computational analysis further showed that developmental changes involved an increase in integration capacity of the connectivity network as a whole. Taken together, we conclude that hallmark organizational structures of the human connectome are present before term birth and subject to early development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3000-3013
Number of pages14
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Connectome
  • Development
  • Functional connectivity
  • Neonatal
  • Structural connectivity


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