Five NIH-funded studies led by four NIH-funded researchers at Women &Infants Hospital and The Miriam Hospital in affiliation with the Alpert Brown Medical School, are currently using the Fetal Neurobehavioral Assessment System developed by Dr. Salisbury to examine fetal behavioral development during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy in high-risk samples. The researchers are funded by NIMH, NIDA, and NICHD to examine effects of antidepressant medications, maternal psychiatric illness, smoking, and opiates on fetal and subsequent neonatal development. An additional R03 study funded by NIMH is examining the potential prenatal markers for autism. The ultrasound system being used to collect the fetal behavior data in each of these studies was manufactured in 1993 and although it is reliable and in good working order, an upgrade to a new machine with advanced technology would allow for significantly improved quality of images resulting in more accurate and precise coding of behaviors, more accurate information about fetal behavioral state development (a key indicator of central nervous system development), faster data turnaround time as well as research expansion into areas of neuroanatomical measurement that cannot be conducted with the current machine. The new ultrasound machine would allow for cranial ultrasound imaging of the infants in many of our studies. Frequently, researchers are reluctant to combine neuro-anatomical or functional imaging in studies of infant behavior and development due to the need to use physical or chemical restraint in order to obtain such images. With ultrasound, views of infant brain structures are achieved without such means and with greater clarity than ever before. The addition of 3D and 4D technology in the proposed new ultrasound system would allow for even greater expansion of all the research programs using the current machine.

Public Health Relevance

The purchase of a new ultrasound system will allow for improved accuracy, precision, and expanded research capabilities in our work of fetal neurobehavioral development in atrisk populations including fetuses who are siblings of children with autism, prenatally exposed to psychotropic medications, illegal drugs, and maternal psychiatric illness. It would also allow for additional research using cranial ultrasound for brain imaging in infants.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Research Resources (NCRR)
Biomedical Research Support Shared Instrumentation Grants (S10)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-SBIB-S (91))
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Birken, Steven
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Women and Infants Hospital-Rhode Island
United States
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Salisbury, Amy L; Coyle, Mara G; O'Grady, Kevin E et al. (2012) Fetal assessment before and after dosing with buprenorphine or methadone. Addiction 107 Suppl 1:36-44