Preterm children often have language problems. This atypical language development is probably due to atypical brain development. We conducted a systematic review to provide an overview of the extensive and diverse scientific literature on the relations between language outcome and underlying brain structures in school-aged preterm-born children. Embase, Medline Ovid, Web of Science, Cochrane central and Google scholar were searched for relevant studies. Inclusion criteria were: cases are school-aged preterm children; structural MRI (T1- and T2-weighted sequences) or DTI used in combination with a neurocognitive language test; publication in an English-language peer-reviewed journal. Correlational measures between language scores and brain volume or fractional anisotropy of a brain structure were extracted. 23 studies were included. The relations between oral language, verbal fluency and/or written language and MRI/DTI measurements of white matter, gray matter, cerebellum, corpus callosum and/or the fasciculi are presented. Oral language skills and verbal fluency appear to be related to the corpus callosum. Oral language skills are also related to the uncinate fasciculus. There seems to be no clear relation between cerebellar development and verbal fluency skills. Not one single brain area is responsible for atypical language development, but several brain areas and their connections are essential. For future research it is recommended to relate brain areas to oral language skills on a microstructural level in preterm children. We also recommend to use language tests in which it is possible to distinguish between several language domains, such as perceptive and expressive language.

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Journal PLoS ONE
Stipdonk, L.W, Franken, M-C, & Dudink, J. (2018). Language outcome related to brain structures in school-aged preterm children: A systematic review. PLoS ONE (Vol. 13). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0196607