Early brain morphometrics from neonatal MRI predict motor and cognitive outcomes at 2-years corrected age in very preterm infants

Alex M. Pagnozzi, Liza van Eijk, Kerstin Pannek, Roslyn N. Boyd, Susmita Saha, Joanne George, Samudragupta Bora, Dana Kai Bradford, Michael Fahey, Michael Ditchfield, Atul Malhotra, Helen Liley, Paul B. Colditz, Stephen Rose, Jurgen Fripp

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Infants born very preterm face a range of neurodevelopmental challenges in cognitive, language, behavioural and/or motor domains. Early accurate identification of those at risk of adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes, through clinical assessment and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), enables prognostication of outcomes and the initiation of targeted early interventions. This study utilises a prospective cohort of 181 infants born <31 weeks gestation, who had 3T MRIs acquired at 29-35 weeks postmenstrual age and a comprehensive neurodevelopmental evaluation at 2 years corrected age (CA). Cognitive, language and motor outcomes were assessed using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development – Third Edition and functional motor outcomes using the Neuro-sensory Motor Developmental Assessment. By leveraging advanced structural MRI pre-processing steps to standardise the data, and the state-of-the-art developing Human Connectome Pipeline, early MRI biomarkers of neurodevelopmental outcomes were identified. Using Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator (LASSO) regression, significant associations between brain structure on early MRIs with 2-year outcomes were obtained (r = 0.51 and 0.48 for motor and cognitive outcomes respectively) on an independent 25% of the data. Additionally, important brain biomarkers from early MRIs were identified, including cortical grey matter volumes, as well as cortical thickness and sulcal depth across the entire cortex. Adverse outcome on the Bayley-III motor and cognitive composite scores were accurately predicted, with an Area Under the Curve of 0.86 for both scores. These associations between 2-year outcomes and patient prognosis and early neonatal MRI measures demonstrate the utility of imaging prior to term equivalent age for providing earlier commencement of targeted interventions for infants born preterm.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119815
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2023


  • Biomarkers
  • Cognition
  • Language
  • Motor
  • Neonates
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Preterm birth
  • Structural MRI

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