Brain regions associated with working memory and mathematics abilities of children who are born prematurely identified.
The findings suggest that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans after birth can help predict cognitive impairment in premature babies.
"Our findings demonstrate that brain microstructure and increased tissue volumes in regions located around the insula and putamen during the neonatal period are associated with better early mathematics in preterm children," said study co-author Henrik Ullman from Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
School age children who are born prematurely are more likely to have low mathematical achievement, thought to be associated with reduced working memory and number skills.
The researchers assessed 224 premature Australian children at age five and age seven to examine the use of MRI after birth to identify infants at risk of later academic impairment.
Neonatal brain microstructure was positively associated with working memory scores in childhood, while increasing tissue volumes in the left insula and putamen regions were positively associated with higher number skills scores in childhood.
This meant they were able to identify brain microstructure and regions in the neonatal brain that are associated with childhood mathematical learning.
"This knowledge could assist in identifying infants at risk of mild academic impairments who would benefit from monitoring and referral to early intervention," study co-author Megan Spencer-Smith from Karolinska Institutet noted.
The study was published in the journal Brain.