Basal ganglia and thalamic tract connectivity in very preterm and full-term children; associations with 7-year neurodevelopment

Deanne K. Thompson, Wai Yen Loh, Alan Connelly, Jeanie L.Y. Cheong, Alicia J. Spittle, Jian Chen, Claire E. Kelly, Terrie E. Inder, Lex W. Doyle, Peter J. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Altered basal ganglia and thalamic connectivity may be critical for cognitive, motor and behavioural impairments common to very preterm (<32 weeks’ gestational age) children. This study aims to (1) compare corticostriatal and thalamocortical tract connectivity between very preterm and term-born children at 7 years of age; (2) explore tract connectivity associations with 7-year neurodevelopmental outcomes, and whether these relationships differed between groups. Methods: Eighty-three very preterm and 19 term-born (≥37 weeks’ gestational age) children underwent structural and diffusion magnetic resonance imaging and had a neuropsychological assessment at 7 years. Corticostriatal and thalamocortical tracts were reconstructed and white matter connectivity was estimated with apparent fibre density. Results: Compared with term-born controls, very preterm children had decreased connectivity in tracts linking the caudate to right motor areas (−10%, p = 0.03) and the thalamus with left motor areas (−5.7%, p = 0.03). Reduced connectivity in corticostriatal and thalamocortical tracts was associated with adverse motor functioning in both groups (p = 0.06). Decreased connectivity of the left caudate and putamen with the lateral prefrontal cortex was associated with lower reading performance for controls (p = 0.06). Conclusion: Corticostriatal and thalamocortical tracts are vulnerable to very preterm birth. Poorer connectivity in these tracts may underlie the motor impairments observed in very preterm children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-56
Number of pages9
JournalPediatric Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

Cite this