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

"Our results suggest that the infant brain might not be able to generate localized blood- flow increases, even if there is neuronal activity occurring, and that the development of blood- flow control occurs in parallel with early neuronal development," says Kozberg. "This could suggest that fMRI studies of infants and children may be detecting changes in both vascular and neuronal developmentin fact, vascular development may be an important new factor to consider in normal and abnormal brain development."

The team also found that the younger age groups were highly sensitive to blood pressure increases in response to stimulation and that these increases can cause large increases in blood flow across the brain. "This finding indicates that the newborn brain is also unable to regulate its overall blood-flow levels," Kozberg explains. "This could explain earlier fMRI results in infants and children that were sometimes positive and sometimes negative, because it is difficult to tell whether blood pressure increases are occurring in infants and children. This result suggests that great care should be taken in setting stimulus thresholds in young subjects."

The researchers add that, since the newborn brain appears to be able to sustain itself without tightly controlled blood flow, their findings suggest that the infant brain may be intrinsically more resistant to damage due to a lack of oxygen than the adult brain. "This could be an important property to understand, both in terms of understanding how best to treat blood-flow problems in the newborn infant brain, which can cause lifelong problems such as cerebral palsy, and to potentially better understand how to treat the adult brain in conditions such as stroke," Hillman observes.

"Our lab operates at the intersection of neuroscience and engineering," continues Hillman." Not only do we develop the imaging systems that let us investigate the living brain in new ways, but like all engineers, w
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Contact: Holly Evarts
holly.evarts@columbia.edu
347-453-7408
Columbia University
Source:Eurekalert  

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