Longer Gestation is Associated with more Efficient Brain Networks in Preadolescent Children

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


Neurodevelopmental benefits of increased gestation have not been fully characterized in terms of network organization. Since brain function can be understood as an integrated network of neural information from distributed brain regions, investigation of the effects of gestational length on network properties is a critical goal of human developmental neuroscience. Using diffusion tensor imaging and fiber tractography, we investigated the effects of gestational length on the small-world attributes and rich club organization of 147 preadolescent children, whose gestational length ranged from 29 to 42 weeks. Higher network efficiency was positively associated with longer gestation. The longer gestation was correlated with increased local efficiency in the posterior medial cortex, including the precuneus, cuneus, and superior parietal regions. Rich club organization was also observed indicating the existence of highly interconnected structural hubs formed in preadolescent children. Connectivity among rich club members and from rich club regions was positively associated with the length of gestation, indicating the higher level of topological benefits of structural connectivity from longer gestation in the predominant regions of brain networks. The findings provide evidence that longer gestation is associated with improved topological organization of the preadolescent brain, characterized by the increased communication capacity of the brain network and enhanced directional strength of brain connectivity with central hub regions.

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