Aberrant allometric scaling of cortical folding in preterm-born adults

Benita Schmitz-Koep, Aurore Menegaux, Juliana Zimmermann, Melissa Thalhammer, Antonia Neubauer, Jil Wendt, David Schinz, Christian Wachinger, Marcel Daamen, Henning Boecker, Claus Zimmer, Josef Priller, Dieter Wolke, Peter Bartmann, Christian Sorg, Dennis M. Hedderich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

A universal allometric scaling law has been proposed to describe cortical folding of the mammalian brain as a function of the product of cortical surface area and the square root of cortical thickness across different mammalian species, including humans. Since these cortical properties are vulnerable to developmental disturbances caused by preterm birth in humans and since these alterations are related to cognitive impairments, we tested (i) whether cortical folding in preterm-born adults follows this cortical scaling law and (ii) the functional relevance of potential scaling aberrances. We analysed the cortical scaling relationship in a large and prospectively collected cohort of 91 very premature-born adults (<32 weeks of gestation and/or birthweight <1500g, very preterm and/or very low birth weight) and 105 full-term controls at 26 years of age based on the total surface area, exposed surface area and average cortical thickness measured with structural magnetic resonance imaging and surface-based morphometry. We found that the slope of the log-transformed cortical scaling relationship was significantly altered in adults (very preterm and/or very low birth weight: 1.24, full-term: 1.14, P = 0.018). More specifically, the slope was significantly altered in male adults (very preterm and/or very low birth weight: 1.24, full-term: 1.00, P = 0.031), while there was no significant difference in the slope of female adults (very preterm and/or very low birth weight: 1.27, full-term: 1.12, P = 0.225). Furthermore, offset was significantly lower compared with full-term controls in both male (very preterm and/or very low birth weight: -0.546, full-term: -0.538, P = 0.001) and female adults (very preterm and/or very low birth weight: -0.545, full-term: -0.538, P = 0.023), indicating a systematic shift of the regression line after preterm birth. Gestational age had a significant effect on the slope in very preterm and/or very low birth weight adults and more specifically in male very preterm and/or very low birth weight adults, indicating that the difference in slope is specifically related to preterm birth. The shape or tension term of the scaling law had no significant effect on cognitive performance, while the size of the cortex did. Results demonstrate altered scaling of cortical surface and cortical thickness in very premature-born adults. Data suggest altered mechanical forces acting on the cortex after preterm birth.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfcac341
JournalBrain Communications
Volume5
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • cortical folding
  • human brain development
  • preterm birth
  • structural magnetic resonance imaging
  • universal scaling law

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