The brain of a preterm infant is prone to biological injuries due to prematurity and related treatments. The final functional outcome is further modified by later environmental factors. Research of mechanisms causing and compensating these injuries opens an interesting view into brain development.


Centralised care of very preterm infants (<32 weeks of gestation or birth weight <1501 g) provides a solid foundation for our multidisciplinary long-term follow-up study of preterm infants (The PIPARI Study). We follow a cohort of 232 very preterm infants who survived in Turku University Hospital during the years 2001–2006, and a group of 246 full term healthy control infants.
The follow-up is carried out using standardised methods, starting with foetal assessments and ending up with functional outcome at school age. As successful functioning at school is a sum of different skills and abilities, we have coordinated different approaches to obtain a full picture of the outcome, the risk factors for later functional deficits and also to find early diagnostic features of an abnormal development in preterm infants.

The aims of the PIPARI research project are:

• to examine the effects of fetal risk factors on the long-term outcome
• to analyse the effects of different treatment modalities used in the neonatal intensive care on the long-term outcome, and to improve the medical care based on research evidence
• to apply new brain imaging techniques and find out their clinical value in follow-up as prognostic tools
• to examine the clinical value of early neurological and behavioural assessment methods as diagnostic and prognostic tools
• to investigate the trajectories of early linguistic, communicative and cognitive development by repeated follow-up examinations up to school age
• to assess the characteristics of the interaction between preterm infants and the caregivers, and to find out its significance to the child’s later development

The aims of the ongoing investigations performed at 11 years of age are:

• to assess the cognitive, neuropsychological and academic performance at 11 years of age, and to identify the potential protective and risk factors on outcome beginning from the foetal life to school age
• to assess the detailed neurological status and motor performance and to analyse the prognostic value of early sequential neurological examinations
• to assess visual functions and their relationship to neuropsychological profile and motor performance
• to find out the quality of life (QOL) experienced by children themselves at 11 years of age, and to analyse factors affecting QOL