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In Vivo Visualization of White Matter Fiber Tracts of Preterm- and Term-Infant Brains With Diffusion Tensor Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Yoo, Seung-Schik PhD*‡; Park, Hae-Jeong PhD*; Soul, Janet S. MD†; Mamata, Hatsuho MD, PhD*; Park, HyunWook PhD§; Westin, Carl-Fredrik PhD*; Bassan, Haim MD†; Du Plessis, Adre J. MD†; Robertson, Richard L. Jr MD¶; Maier, Stephan E. MD, PhD*; Ringer, Steven A. MD, PhD∥; Volpe, Joseph J. MD†; Zientara, Gary P. PhD*

Preliminary Report

Objective: The goal of this study was to test the feasibility of visualizing a 3-dimensional structure of cerebral white matter fiber tracts in preterm infants, postconceptional age (PCA) 28 weeks to term, by using volumetric diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DTI) data.

Materials and Method: We combined tractography algorithms and visualization methods, currently available for adult DTI data, to trace the pixelated principal direction of a diffusion tensor originating from regions-of-interest with high fractional anisotropy. Consequently, white matter fiber bundles from the genu and the splenium of corpus callosum, the corticospinal tracts, the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculi, and optic radiations were visualized.

Results: Our results suggest that major white matter tracts of preterm infant brains, with PCAs ranging from 28 weeks to term (40 weeks old), can be successfully visualized despite the small brain volume and low anisotropy.

Conclusion: The feasibility of fiber tractography in preterm neonates with DTI may add a new dimension in detection and characterization of white matter injuries of preterm infants.

From the Departments of *Radiology and ∥Newborn Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; the Departments of †Neurology and ¶Radiology, Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; and the Departments of ‡BioSystems and §Electrical Engineering, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Korea.

Received July 17, 2004 and accepted for publication, after revision, October 3, 2004.

This study was partially supported by the William Randolph Hearst Fund, the Brain Neuroinformatics Research Program, Korean Ministry of Science and Technology Grant #2004-55-02038 (to S-SY), NIH R03-HD041376 (to GPZ), P01-NS38475-5 (to AJdP, GPZ), NIH R01-NS39335 (to SEM) and the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation (to JS).

Reprints: Seung-Schik Yoo, PhD, Department of Radiology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA. E-mail:

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.