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MR spectroscopy shows differences in brains of preterm infants
Date:11/25/2013

ing a disruption in the timing and synchronization of white and gray matter maturation. Gray matter is the part of the brain that processes and sends out signals.

"The road map of brain development is disturbed in these premature kids," Dr. Blml said. "White matter development had an early start and was 'out of sync' with gray matter development."

This false start in white matter development is triggered by events after birth, according to Dr. Blml.

"This timeline of events might be disturbed in premature kids because there are significant physiological switches at birth, as well as stimulatory events, that happen irrespective of gestational maturity of the newborn," he said. "The most apparent change is the amount of oxygen that is carried by the blood."

Dr. Blml said that the amount of oxygen delivered to the fetus's developing brain in utero is quite low, and our brains have evolved to optimize development in that low oxygen environment. However, when infants are born, they are quickly exposed to a much more oxygen-rich environment.

"This change may be something premature brains are not ready for," he said.

While this change may cause irregularities in white matter development, Dr. Blml noted that the newborn brain has a remarkable capacity to adapt or even "re-wire" itselfa concept known as plasticity. Plasticity not only allows the brain to govern new skills over the course of development, like learning to walk and read, but could also make the brains of preterm infants and young children more responsive to therapeutic interventions, particularly if any abnormalities are identified early.

"Our research points to the need to better understand the impact of prematurity on the timing of critical maturational processes and to develop therapies aimed at regulating brain development," Dr. Blml said.


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Contact: Linda Brooks
lbrooks@rsna.org
630-590-7762
Radiological Society of North America
Source:Eurekalert  

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