Originally published by 2 Minute Medicine® (view original article). Reused on AccessPediatrics with permission.

Newborn babies have variations in white matter development, but it is unknown whether these variations are associated with changes in later neurodevelopment. In this prospective cohort study, investigators performed MRI examinations for 38 full-term infants at 2 weeks of age and then followed up at 2 years with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID) in order to examine any associations between white matter findings at 2 weeks and BSID scores at 2 years. Investigators found that tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) analyses showed correlations (p<0.05) between fractional anisotropy (FA) values measured at 2 weeks and multiple BSID subscale scores at 2 years of age. Different white matter regions showed clusters with positive correlation between FA and scores for socioemotional, cognitive, language, and motor skills. Adaptive behavior scores and FA values had no correlation in any white mater regions, and there were no negative correlations between FA values and any BSID scores. In terms of covariates, investigators found that an infant’s gestational age at birth was an important confounding factor in FA-BSID relationships, with a trend of positive correlations between gestational age at birth and BSID scores (p=0.05, R =0.34 for cognitive scores). Different BSID scores correlated positively with mean FA values of different neurological structures. Taken together, the results from this study suggest that higher FA values and greater early white matter development is indicative of better later neurodevelopment, and that gestational age likely impacts both white matter development and neurodevelopmental outcomes. This study also provides some weak correlations between BSID scores and FA values of certain structures. This study is limited in a small sample size and inability to assess many other postnatal factors.

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