Neurodevelopmental outcomes and neural mechanisms associated with non-right handedness in children born very preterm.


Non-right handedness (NRH) is reportedly more common in very preterm (VPT; < 32 weeks' gestation) children compared with term-born peers, but it is unclear whether neonatal brain injury or altered brain morphology and microstructure underpins NRH in this population. Given that NRH has been inconsistently reported to be associated with cognitive and motor difficulties, this study aimed to examine associations between handedness and neurodevelopmental outcomes in VPT 7-year-olds. Furthermore, the relationship between neonatal brain injury and integrity of motor tracts (corpus callosum and corticospinal tract) with handedness at age 7 years in VPT children was explored. One hundred seventy-five VPT and 69 term-born children completed neuropsychological and motor assessments and a measure of handedness at 7 years' corrected age. At term-equivalent age, brain injury on MRI was assessed and diffusion tensor measures were obtained for the corpus callosum and posterior limb of the internal capsule. There was little evidence of stronger NRH in the VPT group compared with term controls (regression coefficient[b] -1.95, 95% confidence interval [-5.67, 1.77]). Poorer academic and working memory outcomes were associated with stronger NRH in the VPT group. While there was little evidence that neonatal unilateral brain injury was associated with stronger NRH, increased area and fractional anisotropy of the corpus callosum splenium were predictive of stronger NRH in the VPT group. VPT birth may alter the relationship between handedness and academic outcomes, and neonatal corpus callosum integrity predicts hand preference in VPT children at school age.