Thursday, April 11, 2013

British Researchers Plan To Map Babies' Brains

Advances in Science


An article, by Smitha Mundasad, in BBC News says that scientists in Britain are planning to map the brains of babies, beginning in the womb, with the hope that such maps will give physicians the ability to view the early development of brains and to understand how such abnormalities as autism develop.

Mundasad writes:
Researchers from Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital, King's College London, Imperial College and Oxford University aim to produce a dynamic wiring diagram of how the brain grows, at a level of detail that they say has been impossible until now. They hope that by charting the journeys of bundles of nerves in the final three months of pregnancy, doctors will be able to understand more about how they can help in situations when this process goes wrong.
Prof David Edwards, director of the Centre for the Developing Brain, who is leading the research, says: "There is a distressing number of children in our society who grow up with problems because of things that happen to them around the time of birth or just before birth.
"It is very important to be able to scan babies before they are born, because we can capture a period when an awful lot is changing inside the brain, and it is a time when a great many of the things that might be going wrong do seem to be going wrong.
The study— known as the Developing Human Connectome Project—hopes to look at more than 1,500 babies, studying many aspects of their neurological development.
By examining the brains of babies while they are still growing in the womb, as well as those born prematurely and at full term, the scientists will try to define baselines of normal development and investigate how these may be affected by problems around birth.

Central to this project are advanced MRI scanning techniques, which the scientists say are able to pick up on details of the growing brain that have been difficult to capture until now. And they plan to share their map with the wider research community.
This is interesting research, and one of the purposes of early brain scans is to pick up human abnormalities in brain development early on in its development, says Prof David Edwards, director of the Centre for the Developing Brain, who is leading the research: "It is very important to be able to scan babies before they are born, because we can capture a period when an awful lot is changing inside the brain, and it is a time when a great many of the things that might be going wrong do seem to be going wrong."

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You can read the rest of the article at [BBC News]

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