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Shedding new light on infant brain development
Date:2/18/2013

New York, NYFebruary 18, 2013A new study by Columbia Engineering researchers finds that the infant brain does not control its blood flow in the same way as the adult brain. The paper, which the scientists say could change the way researchers study brain development in infants and children, is published in the February 18 Early Online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"The control of blood flow in the brain is very important" says Elizabeth Hillman, associate professor of Biomedical Engineering and of Radiology, who led the research study in her Laboratory for Functional Optical Imaging at Columbia. "Not only are regionally specific increases in blood flow necessary for normal brain function, but these blood-flow increases form the basis of signals measured in fMRI, a critical imaging tool used widely in adults and children to assess brain function. Many prior fMRI studies have overlooked the possibility that the infant brain controls blood flow differently."

"Our results are fascinating" says Mariel Kozberg, a neurobiology MD-PhD candidate who works under Hillman and is the lead author of the PNAS paper. "We found that the immature brain does not generate localized blood-flow increases in response to stimuli. By tracking changes in blood-flow control with increasing age, we observed the brain gradually developing its ability to increase local blood flow and, by adulthood, generate a large blood-flow response."

The study results suggest that fMRI experiments in infants and children should be carefully designed to ensure that maturation of blood-flow control can be delineated from changes in neuronal development. "On the other hand," says Hillman, "our findings also suggest that vascular development may be an important new factor to consider in normal and abnormal brain development, so our findings could represent new markers of normal and abnormal brain development that could
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Contact: Holly Evarts
holly.evarts@columbia.edu
347-453-7408
Columbia University
Source:Eurekalert  

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