Very preterm birth (VPTB) is an important risk factor for white matter (WM) damage. We used voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to examine regional WM brain abnormalities in 50 adolescents with antecedents of very preterm birth (VPTB) without evidence of WM damage on T2-weighted MRI. This group was compared with a group of 50 subjects born at term and matched for age, handedness and socio-cultural status. We also examined the relationship between WM changes and gestational age (GA) and weight (GW) at birth in VPTB subjects. Both modulated and unmodulated VBM analyses showed significant abnormalities in several WM brain regions in the VPTB group, involving all the cerebral lobes. However, density analyses (unmodulated data) mainly identified periventricular damage and the involvement of the longitudinal fascicles while volume analyses (modulated data) detected WM decreases in regions distant from the ventricular system, located at the origin and end of the long fascicles. A significant correlation was found between WM decreases and both GA and GW in various brain regions: the lower the GA and GW, the lower the WM integrity. This study supports the current view that widespread white matter impairment is associated with immature birth. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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