Touching Lives - March 2010
Mapping baby brains may predict future problems
If babies are born very prematurely they may have problems with movement, speech or learning disabilities later on.
Clearly, it is better to know as soon as possible whether a problem is likely to occur so that treatments which may help them overcome their difficulties may be started or planned in advance.
Researchers from Imperial College, London and Hammersmith Hospital, have already produced brain maps, or atlases, for adults and two-year-olds, by taking a large number of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) snapshots and combining the information on each scan to build up a picture of typical brain development.
In this three-year project, the team, led by Professor David Edwards and Professor Daniel Rueckert, will now use the same technique with newborns. Once an atlas of a typical newborn brain has been measured and calculated, doctors will then be able to compare it with scans of premature babies to spot areas which may be developing differently to the norm.
Such early warning could prove invaluable in the treatment of children with conditions associated with premature birth.
This project has been funded by a generous grant from The Henry Smith Charity