Reinforcement of the Brain's Rich-Club Architecture Following Early Neurodevelopmental Disruption Caused by Very Preterm Birth


The second half of pregnancy is a crucial period for the development of structural brain connectivity, and an abrupt interruption of the typical processes of development during this phase caused by the very preterm birth (textless33 weeks of gestation) is likely to result in long-lasting consequences. We used structural and diffusion imaging data to reconstruct the brain structural connectome in very preterm-born adults. We assessed its rich-club organization and modularity as 2 characteristics reflecting the capacity to support global and local information exchange, respectively. Our results suggest that the establishment of global connectivity patterns is prioritized over peripheral connectivity following early neurodevelopmental disruption. The very preterm brain exhibited a stronger rich-club architecture than the control brain, despite possessing a relative paucity of white matter resources. Using a simulated lesion approach, we also investigated whether putative structural reorganization takes place in the very preterm brain in order to compensate for its anatomical constraints. We found that connections between the basal ganglia and (pre-) motor regions, as well as connections between subcortical regions, assumed an altered role in the structural connectivity of the very preterm brain, and that such alterations had functional implications for information flow, rule learning, and verbal IQ.

Cerebral Cortex