Altered asymmetries of the structural networks comprising the fronto-limbic brain circuitry of preterm infants

Joo Young Lee, Yong Ho Choi, Jong Ho Cha, Ji Young Lee, Young Jun Lee, Bo Hyun Kim, Il Kewon Kim, Jong Min Lee, Hyun Ju Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study aimed to elaborate upon prior findings suggestive of the altered lateralization of structural connectivity in the developing preterm brain by using diffusion tensor imaging tractography to explore how network topological asymmetries in fronto-limbic neural circuitry are altered at 36–41 weeks, postmenstrual age in 64 preterm infants without severe brain injury and 33 term-born infants. We compared the pattern of structural connectivity and network lateralization of the betweenness centrality in the medial fronto-orbital gyrus, superior temporal gyrus, amygdala, and hippocampus—the structures comprising the fronto-limbic brain circuit—between preterm and term infants. Global efficiency, local efficiency, and small-world characteristics did not differ significantly between the two hemispheres in term-born infants, suggesting that integration and segregation are balanced between the left and right hemispheres. However, the preterm brain showed significantly greater leftward lateralization of small-worldness (P = 0.033); the lateralization index of the betweenness centrality revealed that the medial fronto-orbital gyrus (P = 0.008), superior temporal gyrus (P = 0.031), and hippocampus (P = 0.028) showed significantly increased leftward asymmetry in preterm infants relative to term-infants independent of sex, age at imaging, and bronchopulmonary dysplasia. The altered lateralization of fronto-limbic brain circuitry might be involved in the early development of social–emotional disorders in preterm infants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1318
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021 Dec


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