The growing incidence of preterm birth (>500,000/year in the US) and birth injuries (>25,000/year in the US) have had a profound impact on society, with millions of dollars devoted to the healthcare and education of these children in addition to the physical and emotional stress on the affected families. There is a tremendous need for early detection and intervention. Magnetic resonance imaging has provided a powerful tool for the noninvasive study and monitoring of the infant brain. Developments in MRI over the last decade have allowed visualization of not only gross anatomic features, but also functional aspects of the brain using methods such as BOLD and microstructural organization using diffusion. More recently, post-processing techniques have advanced these techniques to further the study of mesoscale developing networks in the brain. The goal of this Bioengineering Research Grant is to investigate the development of structural and functional connectivity networks in the newborn brain from 26 weeks of gestational age to 1 year of life and correlating with clinical outcome. By doing so, we aim to gain a better insight ino how the human brain shapes and reshapes itself in to normal and abnormal conditions and to determine whether these network metrics maybe used as an early biomarker for determining developmental trajectories.
According to March of Dimes, more than 540,000 babies in the US are born each year prematurely. The economic cost is tens of billions of dollars annually for additional healthcare and educational needs of the affected children, superimposed upon profound, unquantifiable emotional distress on the immediate family and surrounding communities. A better understanding of the plasticity of the brain would presumably offer treatment strategies to improve the cognitive outcome of those newborns, which are negatively affected by their premature birth. This project aims to achieve this through investigating the structural and connectivity networks in combination to more traditionally available in vivo imaging techniques and correlating with neurological outcome assessments at age of one.
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