Thinning of the corpus callosum (CC) is often observed in individuals who were born very preterm. Damage to the CC during neurodevelopment may be associated with poor neuropsychological performance. This study aimed to explore any evidence of CC pathology in adolescents aged 14-15 years who were born very preterm, and to investigate the relationship between CC areas and verbal skills. Seventy-two individuals born before 33 weeks of gestation and 51 age- and sex-matched full-term controls received structural MRI and neuropsychological assessment. Total CC area in very preterm adolescents was 7.5% smaller than in controls, after adjusting for total white matter volume (P=0.015). The absolute size of callosal subregions differed between preterm and fullterm adolescents: preterm individuals had a 14.7% decrease in posterior (P<0.0001) and an 11.6% decrease in mid-posterior CC quarters (P=0.029). Preterm individuals who had experienced periventricular haemorrhage and ventricular dilatation in the neonatal period showed the greatest decrease in CC area. In very preterm boys only, verbal IQ and verbal fluency scores were positively associated with total mid-sagittal CC size and midposterior surface area. These results suggest that very preterm birth adversely affects the development of the CC, particularly its posterior quarter, and this impairs verbal skills in boys.
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