Preemies at Higher Risk for Psychiatric Disorders as Teenagers

Premature infants suffer a greater risk of developing particular psychiatric disorders as teenagers, including attention deficit hyperactivity and depression.

According to a new study, premature infants suffer a greater risk of developing particular psychiatric disorders as teenagers, including attention deficit hyperactivity and depression.

The study authors, who performed the research at the Columbia University Medical Center, reported that these mental health issues result from brain injuries which affect cortical development as well as neural connectivity.

The researchers studied 400 premature infants who exhibited abnormal brain ultrasounds at birth until the age of sixteen. As teenagers, the study participants were questioned and given cognitive tests.

The study connected brain injuries suffered by preemies prior to or directly following birth with particular psychiatric disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity, tic disorders, major depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

The study also discovered that such psychiatric disorders can be identified through brain ultrasounds, a finding that not only gives insight into the causes of psychiatric disorders, but may also aid in preventing them in the future, said the scientists.

In conclusion, the researchers stated that a more thorough comprehension of the connection between brain injuries these preemies suffered from as infants and mental health issues which developed later on might lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment of these conditions.

The researchers also noted that further studies are necessary in order to find out how brain injuries in premature infants are linked to other common adult psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia.

This study was published in the July issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.