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Keywords:

  • prematurity;
  • language impairment;
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging;
  • task-based functional connectivity;
  • resting state functional connectivity

Abstract

Very preterm (PT) birth (≤32 weeks of gestation) carries a high risk for an adverse neurodevelopmental outcome. In recent years, the importance of neurocognitive deficits in the language domain has been increasingly recognized, which can be well-characterized using neuropsychological testing and noninvasive imaging approaches. We compared former early PT born children and adolescents (PT, n = 29, 20M) and typically developing children (TD, n = 19, 7M), using conventional fMRI group analyses as well as functional connectivity analyses. We found only small regions with significantly different group activation (PT > TD) but significantly stronger connectivity between superior temporal lobe (STL) language regions in TD participants. There were also significant differences in local and global network efficiency (TD > PT). Surprisingly, there was a stronger connectivity of STL regions with non-STL regions both intrahemispherically and interhemispherically in PT participants, suggesting the coexistence of reduced and increased connectivity in the language network of former PTs. Very similar results were obtained when using task-based versus resting state functional connectivity approaches. Finally, lateralization of functional connectivity correlated with verbal comprehension abilities, suggesting that a more bilateral language comprehension representation is associated with better performance. Our results underline the importance of interhemispheric crosstalk for language comprehension. Hum Brain Mapp 35:3372–3384, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.