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Monitoring brain health in babies

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A recent study conducted at the Máxima Medical Center in Veldhoven, the Netherlands, has shown that, by using a diffusion tensor MRI technique, it is possible to more effectively monitor the development of white matter in the brains of infants. Researchers conducted this study in an attempt to find a way to better monitor brain trauma resulting from hypoxic ischemia, a brain injury caused by complications during pregnancy or delivery that results in a lack of oxygen and nutrients.

The study used two groups of infants: 10 babies in the test group who had been diagnosed with hypoxic ischemia and seven babies in a reference group, who had MRI scans conducted for other clinical reasons.

The study, published in the July issue of Radiology, focused on showing the progress of white matter development in infants who suffered from hypoxic ischemia. The researchers used a 1.0-T MRI system from Philips Medical Systems in Best, the Netherlands.

Scans of all the babies were taken at birth, and those in the test group received scans again after approximately three months. In the test group, the scans revealed abnormalities, including differences between the hemispheres of the brain, differences in the length of fibers passing through the posterior limb of the internal capsule and differences in the volume of those fibers. The posterior limb of the internal capsule is the pathway for motor and somatosensory signals.

The study showed that, if brain abnormalities were severe, such as asymmetry in the fibers passing through the posterior limb of the internal capsule, the defects persisted to the scan at three months and resulted in moderately to severely impaired motor skills.

The investigators noted that minor asymmetries between hemispheres tended to resolve by the three-month scan.

Jul 2006
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