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      Early Pain Exposure Influences Functional Brain Connectivity in Very Preterm Neonates

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          Early exposure to nociceptive events may cause brain structural alterations in preterm neonates, with long-lasting consequences on neurodevelopmental outcome. Little is known on the extent to which early pain may affect brain connectivity. We aim to evaluate brain functional connectivity changes in preterm neonate that underwent multiple invasive procedures during the postnatal period, and to correlate them with the neurodevelopmental outcome at 24 months.


          In this prospective case-control study, we collected information about exposure to painful events during the early postnatal period and resting-state BOLD-fMRI data at term equivalent age from two groups of preterm neonate: 33 subjected to painful procedures during the neonatal intensive care (mean gestational age 27.9 ± 1.8 weeks) and 13 who did not require invasive procedures (average gestational age 31.2 ± 2.1 weeks). A data-driven principal-component-based multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) was used to investigate the effect of early pain exposure on brain functional connectivity, and the relationship between connectivity changes and neurodevelopmental outcome at 24 months, assessed with Griffiths, Developmental Scale-Revised: 0–2.


          Early pain was associated with decreased functional connectivity between thalami and bilateral somatosensory cortex, and between the right insular cortex and ipsilateral amygdala and hippocampal regions, with a more evident effect in preterm neonate undergoing more invasive procedures. Functional connectivity of the right thalamocortical pathway was related to neuromotor outcome at 24 months ( P = 0.003).


          Early exposure to pain is associated with abnormal functional connectivity of developing networks involved in the modulation of noxious stimuli in preterm neonate, contributing to the neurodevelopmental consequence of preterm birth.

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          Most cited references 36

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          Infant Brain Atlases from Neonates to 1- and 2-Year-Olds

          Background Studies for infants are usually hindered by the insufficient image contrast, especially for neonates. Prior knowledge, in the form of atlas, can provide additional guidance for the data processing such as spatial normalization, label propagation, and tissue segmentation. Although it is highly desired, there is currently no such infant atlas which caters for all these applications. The reason may be largely due to the dramatic early brain development, image processing difficulties, and the need of a large sample size. Methodology To this end, after several years of subject recruitment and data acquisition, we have collected a unique longitudinal dataset, involving 95 normal infants (56 males and 39 females) with MRI scanned at 3 ages, i.e., neonate, 1-year-old, and 2-year-old. State-of-the-art MR image segmentation and registration techniques were employed, to construct which include the templates (grayscale average images), tissue probability maps (TPMs), and brain parcellation maps (i.e., meaningful anatomical regions of interest) for each age group. In addition, the longitudinal correspondences between age-specific atlases were also obtained. Experiments of typical infant applications validated that the proposed atlas outperformed other atlases and is hence very useful for infant-related studies. Conclusions We expect that the proposed infant 0–1–2 brain atlases would be significantly conducive to structural and functional studies of the infant brains. These atlases are publicly available in our website, http://bric.unc.edu/ideagroup/free-softwares/.
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            Neonatal intensive care unit stress is associated with brain development in preterm infants.

            Although many perinatal factors have been linked to adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in very premature infants, much of the variation in outcome remains unexplained. The impact on brain development of 1 potential factor, exposure to stressors in the neonatal intensive care unit, has not yet been studied in a systematic, prospective manner. In this prospective cohort study of infants born at <30 weeks gestation, nurses were trained in recording procedures and cares. These recordings were used to derive Neonatal Infant Stressor Scale scores, which were employed to measure exposure to stressors. Magnetic resonance imaging (brain metrics, diffusion, and functional magnetic resonance imaging) and neurobehavioral examinations at term equivalent postmenstrual age were used to assess cerebral structure and function. Simple and partial correlations corrected for confounders, including immaturity and severity of illness, were used to explore these relations. Exposure to stressors was highly variable, both between infants and throughout a single infant's hospital course. Exposure to a greater number of stressors was associated with decreased frontal and parietal brain width, altered diffusion measures and functional connectivity in the temporal lobes, and abnormalities in motor behavior on neurobehavioral examination. Exposure to stressors in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is associated with regional alterations in brain structure and function. Further research into interventions that may decrease or mitigate exposure to stressors in the neonatal intensive care unit is warranted. Copyright © 2011 American Neurological Association.
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              Neonatal pain, parenting stress and interaction, in relation to cognitive and motor development at 8 and 18 months in preterm infants.

              Procedural pain in the neonatal intensive care unit triggers a cascade of physiological, behavioral and hormonal disruptions which may contribute to altered neurodevelopment in infants born very preterm, who undergo prolonged hospitalization at a time of physiological immaturity and rapid brain development. The aim of this study was to examine relationships between cumulative procedural pain (number of skin-breaking procedures from birth to term, adjusted for early illness severity and overall intravenous morphine exposure), and later cognitive, motor abilities and behavior in very preterm infants at 8 and 18 months corrected chronological age (CCA), and further, to evaluate the extent to which parenting factors modulate these relationships over time. Participants were N=211 infants (n=137 born preterm 32 weeks gestational age [GA] and n=74 full-term controls) followed prospectively since birth. Infants with significant neonatal brain injury (periventricular leucomalacia, grade 3 or 4 intraventricular hemorrhage) and/or major sensori-neural impairments, were excluded. Poorer cognition and motor function were associated with higher number of skin-breaking procedures, independent of early illness severity, overall intravenous morphine, and exposure to postnatal steroids. The number of skin-breaking procedures as a marker of neonatal pain was closely related to days on mechanical ventilation. In general, greater overall exposure to intravenous morphine was associated with poorer motor development at 8 months, but not at 18 months CCA, however, specific protocols for morphine administration were not evaluated. Lower parenting stress modulated effects of neonatal pain, only on cognitive outcome at 18 months.

                Author and article information

                Front Neurosci
                Front Neurosci
                Front. Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Neuroscience
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                23 August 2019
                : 13
                1Neuroradiology Unit, IRCCS Istituto Giannina Gaslini , Genoa, Italy
                2Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, IRCCS Istituto Giannina Gaslini , Genoa, Italy
                3Child Neuropsychiatry Unit, IRCCS Istituto Giannina Gaslini , Genoa, Italy
                Author notes

                Edited by: Alessandra Griffa, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands

                Reviewed by: Lorenzo Fabrizi, University College London, United Kingdom; Chiara Nosarti, King’s College London, United Kingdom; Ruth Eckstein Grunau, University of British Columbia, Canada; Lynne Joanne Williams, BC Children’s Hospital MRI Research Facility, Canada

                *Correspondence: Domenico Tortora, domenicotortora@ 123456gaslini.org

                This article was submitted to Brain Imaging Methods, a section of the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience

                Copyright © 2019 Tortora, Severino, Di Biase, Malova, Parodi, Minghetti, Traggiai, Uccella, Boeri, Morana, Rossi and Ramenghi.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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                Figures: 6, Tables: 3, Equations: 0, References: 50, Pages: 11, Words: 0
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