The impact of premature extrauterine exposure on infants' stimulus-evoked brain activity across multiple sensory systems.
Schmidt Mellado G., Pillay K., Adams E., Alarcon A., Andritsou F., Cobo MM., Evans Fry R., Fitzgibbon S., Moultrie F., Baxter L., Slater R.
Prematurity can result in widespread neurodevelopmental impairment, with the impact of premature extrauterine exposure on brain function detectable in infancy. A range of neurodynamic and haemodynamic functional brain measures have previously been employed to study the neurodevelopmental impact of prematurity, with methodological and analytical heterogeneity across studies obscuring how multiple sensory systems are affected. Here, we outline a standardised template analysis approach to measure evoked response magnitudes for visual, tactile, and noxious stimulation in individual infants (n = 15) using EEG. By applying these templates longitudinally to an independent cohort of very preterm infants (n = 10), we observe that the evoked response template magnitudes are significantly associated with age-related maturation. Finally, in a cross-sectional study we show that the visual and tactile response template magnitudes differ between a cohort of infants who are age-matched at the time of study but who differ according to whether they are born during the very preterm or late preterm period (n = 10 and 8 respectively). These findings demonstrate the significant impact of premature extrauterine exposure on brain function and suggest that prematurity can accelerate maturation of the visual and tactile sensory system in infants born very prematurely. This study highlights the value of using a standardised multi-modal evoked-activity analysis approach to assess premature neurodevelopment, and will likely complement resting-state EEG and behavioural assessments in the study of the functional impact of developmental care interventions.