Professore Emerito, Dipartimento di Scienze della Riproduzione e dello Sviluppo, Università di Trieste
Key words: Minimal brain damage, Prematurity, Neurological development, Risk factors, Review
The fetal period is a very sensitive epoch in human brain development, as any traumatic event may result in a permanent damage. A preterm birth is usually followed by a slowing down in growth, defined as post-natal malnutrition. This may lead to a reduced head circumference, which is the strongest predictor of suboptimal neurodevelopment in the long-term. In comparison to at term infants, the prematurely born may experience reduced IQ, learning difficulties and attention deficit disorders. Post-natal malnutrition may represent a generalisable model of neurological damage. Some of the external causes of the latter have been identified and include maternal smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, psycho-social stress in the mother, environmental polluting agents. All these factors may interact with genetic variants. Post-natal nutrition interventions may be of value in ameliorating neurological developmental problems in premature babies.
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