Neonatal microstructural development of the internal capsule on diffusion tensor imaging correlates with severity of gait and motor deficits


* Correspondence to first author at Motion and Gait Analysis Laboratory, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, 725 Welch Road, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA. E-mail:


Neonatal microstructural development in the posterior limbs of the internal capsule (PLIC) was assessed using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) fractional anisotropy (FA) in 24 very-low-birthweight preterm infants at 37 weeks' gestational age and compared with the children's gait and motor deficits at 4 years of age. There were 14 participants with normal neonatal FA values (seven females, seven males; born at 27.6 weeks [SD 2.3] gestational age; birthweight 1027g [SD 229]) and 10 participants with low FA values in the PLIC (four females, six males; born at 28.4 weeks [SD 2.0] gestational age; birthweight 1041g [SD 322]). Seven of the 10 children with low FA and none of the children with normal FA had been diagnosed with CP by the time of gait testing. Among children with low neonatal FA, there was a strong negative correlation between FA of the combined left and right side PLIC and log NI (r=–0.89, p=0.001) and between FA and GMFCS (r=–0.65, p=0.04) at 4 years of age. There was no correlation between FA and gait NI or GMFCS at 4 years of age among children with normal neonatal FA. This preliminary study suggests neonatal DTI may be an important predictor of the severity of future gait and motor deficits.