Images of newborns' brains could be key to detecting neurological disorders

In a few years, brain images of more than 1,000 newborns and another 500 fetuses will be generated through a high-resolution MR imaging project in hopes to find the source of neurological disorders at or before the time of birth, according to a recent article by the Financial Times.  

The project, entitled the "Developing Human Connectome Project," led by King's College London and funded from the European Research council, will use MRI and computer analysis technology to further understand the correlation between neurological wiring and the origins of neurological disorders, such a as autism and cerebral palsy.  

According to the study's lead author, David Edwards, PhD, MD, the project is “a major advance in understanding human brain development” and “will provide the first map of how the brain’s connections develop and how this goes wrong in disease."

According to the Financial Times, the first set of scans of 40 babies' brains has been released to the public. The research team is still accepting potential applications to provide further behavioral and genetic data.   

An additional study conducted by researchers from King's College London and University College London will combine MRI and EEG (electroencephalography) technology to analyze high amplitude brain waves necessary to strengthen neural connections in the healthy brain development in premature babies.

“This [study] may offer new and exciting opportunities for monitoring how brain activity develops in preterm babies and a new understanding of how early irregularities can ultimately lead to disability,” said lead author Tomoki Arichi, PhD, of King’s College. “Most research in early brain development focuses on structures instead of functions, so we’re hopeful that our methods can be used further to enhance our understanding of brain function before birth.”