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Preterm birth is associated with an increased risk of adverse neurologic, psychiatric, and cognitive outcomes. The brain circuits involved in processing social information are critical to all of these domains, but little work has been done to examine whether and how these circuits may be especially sensitive to prematurity. This paper contains a brief summary of some of the cognitive, psychiatric, and social outcomes associated with prematurity, followed by a description of findings from the modest body of research into social-cognitive development in infants and children born preterm. Next, findings from studies of structural and functional brain development in infants born preterm are reviewed, with an eye toward the distinctive role of the brain circuits implicated in social functioning. The goal of this review is to investigate the extent to which the putative "social brain" may have particular developmental susceptibilities to the insults associated with preterm birth, and the role of early social-cognitive development in later neurodevelopmental outcomes. Much work has been done to characterize neurobehavioral outcomes in the preterm population, but future research must incorporate both brain and behavioral measures to identify early biomarkers linked to later emerging social-cognitive clinical impairment in order to guide effective, targeted intervention.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by an NIMH T32 Institutional Training Grant 5T32MH015755 and NIMH R01 MH104324 (Elison). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
- Social brain
- Social cognition