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Thinking Skills of Preemies May Catch Up By Adolescence

Update Date: Aug 12, 2014 02:10 PM EDT

A new study is offering some potentially reassuring news to parents of preemies who are worried about their child's intellectual development. According to the study, by adolescence, many of these babies appear to catch up to classmates who weren't born early. 

However, according to some U.S. experts, the findings could be overly optimistic as the study in question only studied healthiest premature babies. 

Premature infants are born more than three weeks before their due date, but brain volume typically doubles in those final weeks before birth, explained Dr. Deborah Campbell, chief of neonatology at Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York City. "There is tremendous growth and activity in that last month," she said, in the press release. 

Without that time in the womb for the brain to develop normally, preemies can experience complications related to thinking and memory.  "Fifty percent of preemies will have learning problems," said Campbell.

The study found the strongest predictors of thinking ability in teenagers who were born prematurely consisted to be a combination of factors that occurred both before and after the birth. Study authors concluded that early nutrition and enrichment through physical and intellectual stimulation in the home is the most important factor. 

The study is published in the journal The Journal of Pediatrics.

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