Data_Sheet_1_Executive Function in Relation to White Matter in Preterm and Full Term Children.PDF

Background: Executive function (EF) refers to cognitive abilities used to guide goal-directed behavior. Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) provides quantitative characterization of white matter tracts in the brain. Children with preterm birth often have EF impairments and white matter injury.

Aim: To examine the degree of association between EF scores and white matter fractional anisotropy (FA) as measured by DTI in children born preterm and term

Study design: Cross-sectional study

Subjects: Participants, 9–16 years of age, born preterm (n = 25; mean gestational age 28.6 weeks; mean birth weight 1,191 grams), and full term (n = 20)

Outcome measures: White matter FA analyzed with Tract-Based Spatial Statistics, a technique that generates a skeleton representing the core of white matter tracts throughout the brain. Behavioral scores from EF tasks examining working memory, spatial memory capacity, and multiple skills from the Stockings of Cambridge.

Results: The groups performed comparably on all tasks. In both groups, unfavorable working memory strategy scores were associated with lower FA. Other measures of EF were not associated with whole skeleton FA in either group in either direction.

Conclusions: Strategy score on a spatial working memory task was associated with FA in preterm and full term children, suggesting common underlying neurobiology in both groups. Associations were found in frontal-parietal connections and other major tracts. Lack of associations between other EF tasks and FA may be due to variation in how children accomplish these EF tasks. Future research is required to fully understand the neurobiology of EF in children born preterm.