Developmental synergy between thalamic structure and interhemispheric connectivity in the visual system of preterm infants
R. Ceschin, J. L. Wisnowski, S. G. Erberich, L. B. Paquette, M. D. Nelson, S. Blüml, and A. Panigrahy, “Developmental synergy between thalamic structure and interhemispheric connectivity in the visual system of preterm infants,” NeuroImage Clin., vol. 8, pp. 462–472, Jan. 2015. PMCID: PMC4474422 DOI : 10.1016/j.nicl.2015.05.014
Thalamic structural co-variation with cortical regions has been demonstrated in preterm infants, but its relationship to cortical function and severity of non-cystic white matter injury (non-cystic WMI) is unclear. The relationship between thalamic morphology and both cortical network synchronization and cortical structural connectivity has not been established. We tested the hypothesis that in preterm neonates, thalamic volume would correlate with primary cortical visual function and microstructural integrity of cortico-cortical visual association pathways. A total of 80 term-equivalent preterm and 44 term-born infants underwent high-resolution structural imaging coupled with visual functional magnetic resonance imaging or diffusion tensor imaging. There was a strong correlation between thalamic volume and primary visual cortical activation in preterms with non-cystic WMI (r = 0.81, p-value = 0.001). Thalamic volume also correlated strongly with interhemispheric cortico-cortical connectivity (splenium) in preterm neonates with a relatively higher severity of non-cystic WMI (p-value < 0.001). In contrast, there was lower correlation between thalamic volume and intrahemispheric cortico-cortical connectivity, including the inferior longitudinal fasciculus and inferior frontal orbital fasciculus. This study shows distinct temporal overlap in the disruption of thalamo-cortical and interhemispheric cortico-cortical connectivity in preterm infants suggesting developmental synergy between thalamic morphology and the emergence of cortical networks in the last trimester.