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People born preterm are at risk of developing both cardiac and brain abnormalities. We aimed to investigate whether cardiovascular physiology may directly affect brain structure in young adulthood and whether cardiac changes are associated with modifiable biomarkers. Forty-eight people born preterm, followed since birth, underwent cardiac MRI at age 25.1 ± 1.4 years and brain MRI at age 33.4 ± 1.0 years. Term born controls were recruited at both time points for comparison. Cardiac left and right ventricular stroke volume, left and right ventricular end diastolic volume and right ventricular ejection fraction were significantly different between preterm and term born controls and associated with subcortical brain volumes and fractional anisotropy in the corpus callosum in the preterm group. This suggests that cardiovascular abnormalities in young adults born preterm are associated with potentially adverse future brain health. Associations between left ventricular stroke volume indexed to body surface area and right putamen volumes, as well as left ventricular end diastolic length and left thalamus volumes, remained significant when adjusting for early life factors related to prematurity. Although no significant associations were found between modifiable biomarkers and cardiac physiology, this highlights that cardiovascular health interventions may also be important for brain health in preterm born adults.

Original publication




Journal article


J Clin Med

Publication Date





MRI, brain, cardiac, heart-brain axis, preterm, young adult