News Release

Brain structure in premature babies linked to emotional processing in preschool

Strength of brain connections linked to emotion moderation skills

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Society for Neuroscience

Brain Structure in Premature Babies Linked to Emotional Processing in Preschool

image: The strength of the uncinate fasciculus at birth was associated with emotion moderation skills in preschool. view more 

Credit: Chiara Nosarti

The strength of brain connections at birth may predict the future emotional and social development of babies born prematurely, according to new research published in eNeuro.

Children born prematurely — roughly 10 percent of all births — are at greater risk of developing social and emotional problems. Yet there is no clear way to distinguish between which children will develop impairments and which won’t. Uncovering a biomarker, like brain structure during infancy, would allow susceptible children to receive the support and interventions they need.

Kanel et al. used diffusion MRI to measure the brain structure of premature infants once they reached full-term age. When the infants reached age 4–7, the research team measured their social and emotional skills with a range of behavioral questionnaires. The strength of the uncinate fasciculus — a hook-shaped white matter tract connecting regions involved in emotional regulation — at birth was associated with emotion moderation skills in preschool. Children with a weaker uncinate fasciculus were more likely to interpret situations in a negative light. These results indicate early-life brain structure may serve as a biomarker for later emotional and social development.


Paper title: Neonatal White Matter Microstructure and Emotional Development During the Pre-School Years in Children Who Were Born Very Preterm

Please contact for full-text PDF and to join SfN's journals media list.

About eNeuro

eNeuro is an online, open-access journal published by the Society for Neuroscience. Established in 2014, eNeuro publishes a wide variety of content, including research articles, short reports, reviews, commentaries and opinions.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.