Premature babies are at higher risk for lower academic achievement, especially in mathematics, claim scientists.
Natacha Akshoomoff, PhD, of the Department of Psychiatry and UC San Diego's Center for Human Development said that preterm children, who are deemed "normal" in terms of their development at infant/toddler stages, may still remain at risk for significant math difficulties, as well as deficits in attention, executive functions, and spatial skills.
She said that recent studies have identified a common pattern of subtle abnormality in the deep white matter of the brain among children born very premature.
Akshoomoff asserted that these early abnormalities may affect the subsequent development of widely distributed brain areas, and may account for the patterns of cognitive deficit that are observed later in childhood.
She explained that however, there is currently very little data actually linking these neural abnormalities with the emergence of such deficits and associated early academic difficulties.
Akshoomoff said that the goal of the current study is to provide these essential data as children enter a critical developmental stage when intervention may have the best potential to achieve better outcomes for these children.
The study participants will include 60 healthy children born at 25 to 32 gestational weeks with average intelligence, and 40 full-term children matched for age, sex and verbal IQ.
Children will enter the study within six months of entering kindergarten and will be followed for three years. The scientists predict that specific early perceptual and cognitive deficits will be related to math deficits that emerge as children start school.