A new research has found that babies born prematurely may suffer from brain problems later on in life, and discovered that certain neural networks were much weaker.
- 1 in 9 children in the United States are born early
- Being born prematurely increases their chances of developing ADHD, ASD, or anxiety
- Researchers tested 58 babies born full term, and 76 babies born prematurely
- They found that preemies had weaker brain connections, which affects communication, attention, and emotional processing
Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine underwent the task of finding out the higher risks of prematurely born babies, along with underlining a possible link. In the United States, 1 in 9 children are born early, which unfortunately increases their risk of developing certain conditions. This includes cognitive difficulties and issues with motor skills.
Babies born prematurely have been found to have a higher likelihood of having certain neurological problems, such as attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, or autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The team of researchers analyzed and found differences that may lead to a proper and possible explanation.
Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), they compared the brains of 58 babies born full term (of over 37 weeks gestational age), with 76 prematurely born infants (of under 30 weeks gestational age). The researchers found that preemies have a weaker brain connectivity. This underlines the higher risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders and motor skills impairments later on.
According to their findings, the weaker structural and functional networks in the brain affect attention, communication, and processing of emotions. This could potentially lead to crippling conditions later on in their life. It explains their higher risk of ADHD or ASD. As stated by co-author of the study, Dr. Cynthia Rogers, they found certain “abnormalities” in the brains of preemies.
In fact, there were “significant differences in white matter”, which further affects the connectivity between neural networks. The problems were particularly aggravated in regions associated with learning and development. This likely contributes to the problems associated with certain impairments, such as why prematurely born children generally begin sitting up and standing late.
And, they’re detectable early on.
As found by the study, these weaker connections may be indeed traced back before birth. Their presence while the unborn child is still in the womb could potentially lead to certain solutions. These repairs should begin early, before the child is born in order to make sure that they will have a fully functional brain, and decreased their chances of developing unfortunate conditions.
The methods might imply brain stimulation in utero with sound, or perhaps procedures that are more invasive.
While they admittedly did not find a definitive causal link between giving birth early and faulty brain connections, it’s possible that it may be triggered by stress, illness, or toxins. It reveals the underlying problem, but not the immediate cause or solution.
Further research will be needed now, and doctors are faced with the responsibility of discovering a solution that would prevent children from having “underdeveloped or immature white matter”.
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