Newborns with congenital heart disease (CHD) requiring open heart surgery are at increased risk for neurodevelopmental disabilities. Recent quantitative MRI studies have reported disrupted growth, microstructure, and metabolism in fetuses and newborns with complex CHD. To date, no study has examined whether functional brain connectivity is altered in this high-risk population after birth, before surgery. Our objective was to compare whole-brain functional connectivity of resting state networks in healthy, term newborns (n = 82) and in term neonates with CHD before surgery (n = 30) using graph theory and network-based statistics. We report for the first time intact global network topology – efficient and economic small world networks – but reduced regional functional connectivity involving critical brain regions (i.e. network hubs and/or rich club nodes) in newborns with CHD before surgery. These findings suggest the presence of early-life brain dysfunction in CHD which may be associated with neurodevelopmental impairments in the years following cardiac surgery. Additional studies are needed to evaluate the prognostic, diagnostic and surveillance potential of these findings.
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De Asis-Cruz, J., Donofrio, M. T., Vezina, G., & Limperopoulos, C. (2018). Aberrant brain functional connectivity in newborns with congenital heart disease before cardiac surgery. NeuroImage Clinical, 17 (). http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nicl.2017.09.020