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Brain anomalies seen in former preemies.

Infants born 5 weeks premature are more likely to have abnormal brain scans, reading troubles, and behavioral problems in adolescence than are children born after a full-term pregnancy.

A British study of 72 prematurely born children finds that at 14 to 15 years old, 40 showed brain abnormalities in magnetic resonance images (MRIs). The abnormalities included dilation of the brain cavity holding cerebrospinal fluid and a thinning of nerve fibers that link the two hemispheres of the brain. Of 21 adolescents born full term, only one had an abnormal MRI, researchers report in the May 15 LANCET.

The study is the first follow-up of children born preterm that includes MRIs, says coauthor Ann L. Stewart of the University College London Medical School.

Eleven of the 40 adolescents with abnormal MRIs had a history of aberrant behavior, compared with 5 of 32 other preterm children and only 1 of the 21 children in the control group.

Nine of the 40 had needed extra tutoring or repeated a grade in school, compared with 5 of the other preterm children and only a single control. Also, the preterm children had an average "reading age" that was 1 to 2 years lower than the controls'.

Stewart notes that the control children generally were in families at a higher socioeconomic status than the families of the children born preterm.

While many people who have abnormal brain scans are not considered brain damaged, the abnormalities in these children reflected measurable behavioral deficits, Stewart says.
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Title Annotation:premature infants
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jun 19, 1999
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