Preterm infants are at increased risk for cognitive disorders, including impairments in recognition memory. This study evaluated the effects of extreme prematurity on the neural pathway for auditory recognition memory using event-related potentials (ERPs), a neurophysiological technique widely used in cognitive neuroscience. ERPs were recorded at term postmenstrual age in 35 preterm infants born at less than 32 weeks' gestation (22 males, 13 females; mean birthweight ([BW] 1154g, SD 374g) with normal brain ultrasounds, compared with 40 healthy, term newborns (1 to 3 days of age; 20 males, 20 females; BW 3672g, SD 420g). Because infants must be able to detect and discriminate sounds before recognizing them, two paradigms were used to assess these functions. The first evalualed the detection and discrimination of speech sounds. The second tested recognition of the mother's voice compared with a stranger's. Results showed significantly different patterns of speech sound discrimination in preterm infants compared with term infants. No evidence of maternal voice recognition was elicited from the preterm infants. No specific patterns of auditory detection or discrimination were associated with patterns of recognition memory, suggesting that the function of multiple neural pathways may have been altered in this group of preterm infants. These results provide a functional corroboration of magnetic resonance imaging studies showing effects of prematurity on early brain development, even among preterm infants with normal cranial ultrasonography.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Clinical Neurology