Primary and nonprimary cerebral cortex mature along different timescales; however, the differences between the rates of maturation of primary and nonprimary cortex are unclear. Cortical maturation can be measured through changes in tissue microstructure detectable by diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In this study, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was used to characterize the maturation of Heschl’s gyrus (HG), which contains both primary auditory cortex (pAC) and nonprimary auditory cortex (nAC), in 90 preterm infants between 26 and 42 weeks postmenstrual age (PMA). The preterm infants were in different acoustical environments during their hospitalization: 46 in open ward beds and 44 in single rooms. A control group consisted of 15 term-born infants. Diffusion parameters revealed that (1) changes in cortical microstructure that accompany cortical maturation had largely already occurred in pAC by 28 weeks PMA, and (2) rapid changes were taking place in nAC between 26 and 42 weeks PMA. At term equivalent PMA, diffusion parameters for auditory cortex were different between preterm infants and term control infants, reflecting either delayed maturation or injury. No effect of room type was observed. For the preterm group, disturbed maturation of nonprimary (but not primary) auditory cortex was associated with poorer language performance at age two years.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0380-17.2017
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Audition
  • Cortical development
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Neuroimaging
  • Preterm infants


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