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First use of high-field MRI in developing brain reveals previously undetectable injuries
Date:11/7/2011

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Pediatric neuroscientists at Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children's Hospital are the first to use high magnetic field strength MRI to reveal tiny white matter injuries in the developing brain previously undetectable using standard MRI.

Early, accurate identification of these lesions in the preterm human infant could prevent delays in therapy and enable physicians to inform families sooner of the potential for complications. The team's findings are published in the Annals of Neurology.

White matter injury is the most common cause of chronic neurologic disability in children with cerebral palsy, explains principal investigator Stephen Back, M.D., Ph.D., but babies with cerebral palsy often have MRIs that miss injury, which creates significant challenges, including delayed treatment intervention and rehabilitation.

"Until now there hasn't been a compelling reason to put preterm babies into a high-field MRI scanner. Our work indicates the magnetic field strength of current clinical MRI may be a limiting factor to detecting some white matter lesions in the preterm infant. Now that we can detect this injury, we also hope our findings may encourage MRI researchers to find more sensitive means to detect this injury with lower field MRIs that are widely available," said Back, an associate professor of pediatrics and neurology in the Pap Family Pediatric Research Institute at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital.

High-field MRI scanners are still mostly used as a research tool and not widely available outside of specialized MRI research centers like OHSU, Back added.

White matter injury occurs during brain development when nerve fibers are actively being wrapped in myelin, the insulation that allows nerve fibers to rapidly transmit signals in the brain. The cells required to make myelin can be easily destroyed when blood flow to the developing brain falls below normal or when matern
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Contact: Tamara Hargens-Bradley
hargenst@ohsu.edu
503-494-8231
Oregon Health & Science University
Source:Eurekalert

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