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Development of the brain network in the fetus now measurable for the first time in the womb

Date:
November 28, 2011
Source:
Medical University of Vienna
Summary:
Scientists have demonstrated for the first time ever that there are fetal brain developments that can be measured using functional magnetic resonance tomography in the womb. This means that pathological changes to brain development will be detectable earlier than they are currently - and appropriate measures can be taken in good time.

A team of researchers at the MedUni's Clinical Department of Neuroradiology and Musculoskeletal Radiology has demonstrated for the first time ever that there are fetal brain developments that can be measured using functional magnetic resonance tomography in the womb. This means, says study leader Veronika Schφpf, that pathological changes to brain development will be detectable earlier than they are currently -- and appropriate measures can be taken in good time.

In the study, 16 foetuses between the 20th and 36th weeks of pregnancy were measured. Measurements were taken of the brain's resting state networks. These networks remain in a state of readiness at rest and their activity increases after appropriate stimulation. The examinations are completely stress-free for the mothers and extend "normal" MRI scans by just a few minutes.

Functional defects are detected earlier "We have been able to demonstrate, for the first time ever, that the resting state networks are formed in utero and that these can be imaged and measured using functional imaging," explains Schφpf, who is part of the working group led by Daniela Prayer, Head of the Department of Neuroradiology and Musculoskeletal Radiology and head of the world's leading centre for pre-natal magnetic resonance imaging at the MedUni Vienna.

This discovery means that, in future, the developmental progress of brain activity in the fetus can be measured and other findings and prognoses made regarding possible malfunctioning processes. As a result, functional defects, such as of the optic nerves or motor system, can be detected while the fetus is still in the womb -- an achievement that was previously impossible -- so that parents can be offered more informed advice and counselling, for example.


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The above story is based on materials provided by Medical University of Vienna. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


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Medical University of Vienna. "Development of the brain network in the fetus now measurable for the first time in the womb." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111124150233.htm>.
Medical University of Vienna. (2011, November 28). Development of the brain network in the fetus now measurable for the first time in the womb. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111124150233.htm
Medical University of Vienna. "Development of the brain network in the fetus now measurable for the first time in the womb." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111124150233.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

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