Steven Miller and colleagues studied 155 newborns from the neonatal intensive care unit at BC Women's Hospital in Canada, collecting neuroimaging data shortly after birth and again at the age they were expected to have been born.
‘Newborns who were born less than 28 weeks of gestation had the most severe abnormalities of the thalamus.’
The research team observed the most severe abnormalities of the thalamus, which transmits sensory information to the cortex, in the extremely preterm newborns (born less than 28 weeks of gestation).
These changes were related to exposure to painful stimuli in the first half of the neonatal period as well as cognitive and motor ability assessed at three years of age. Minimizing painful procedures in extremely preterm born babies may therefore provide an opportunity to promote brain health and improve outcomes in this vulnerable population.