Mammillary body abnormalities and cognitive outcomes in children cooled for neonatal encephalopathy

Arthur P. C. Spencer, Maarten H. Lequin, Linda S. de Vries, Jonathan C. W. Brooks, Sally Jary, James Tonks, Frances M. Cowan, Marianne Thoresen, Ela Chakkarapani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Aim: To evaluate mammillary body abnormalities in school-age children without cerebral palsy treated with therapeutic hypothermia for neonatal hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy (cases) and matched controls, and associations with cognitive outcome, hippocampal volume, and diffusivity in the mammillothalamic tract (MTT) and fornix. 

Method: Mammillary body abnormalities were scored from T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in 32 cases and 35 controls (median age [interquartile range] 7 years [6 years 7 months-7 years 7 months] and 7 years 4 months [6 years 7 months-7 years 7 months] respectively). Cognition was assessed using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fourth Edition. Hippocampal volume (normalized by total brain volume) was measured from T1-weighted MRI. Radial diffusivity and fractional anisotropy were measured in the MTT and fornix, from diffusion-weighted MRI using deterministic tractography. 

Results: More cases than controls had mammillary body abnormalities (34% vs 0%; p < 0.001). Cases with abnormal mammillary bodies had lower processing speed (p = 0.016) and full-scale IQ (p = 0.028) than cases without abnormal mammillary bodies, and lower scores than controls in all cognitive domains (p < 0.05). Cases with abnormal mammillary bodies had smaller hippocampi (left p = 0.016; right p = 0.004) and increased radial diffusivity in the right MTT (p = 0.004) compared with cases without mammillary body abnormalities. 

Interpretation: Cooled children with mammillary body abnormalities at school-age have reduced cognitive scores, smaller hippocampi, and altered MTT microstructure compared with those without mammillary body abnormalities, and matched controls.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)792-802
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Medicine and Child Neurology
Issue number6
Early online date6 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023



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