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MRI shows brain abnormalities in late preterm infants
Date:6/10/2014

in one part of the brain and more immature gyral folding compared with term-born controls. Myelinationthe formation of a fatty insulating sheath around some nerve fibersand gyral foldingthe folding of the cerebral cortex to increase the brain's surface areaare important processes in early brain development.

The findings suggest that MLPT birth may disrupt the expected trajectory of brain growth that would normally occur in the last two or so months in utero, according to Dr. Walsh.

"Given that brain growth is very rapid in the last one-third of pregnancy, it is perhaps not surprising that being born during this potentially vulnerable period may disrupt brain development," she said. "Brain growth is very complex, involving not only the neurons with which we think and do things, but also the other brain cells that support the neurons and are vital for normal brain function."

The researchers are hoping to learn in greater depth the impact that moderate to late preterm birth has on the brain, so that they can then begin to try different treatments designed to improve brain function and long-term outcome in these infants.

"Medications, along with early intervention to help parents understand their baby's needs, have been effective in helping very preterm babies catch up to their term-born peers," Dr. Walsh said. "However, whether any of the existing treatments will help babies born between 32 and 36 weeks is unknown, as they have not been studied very much at all."

The researchers plan to follow the infants in the study group through childhood to learn more about the relationship between brain abnormalities and later outcomes. They also are assessing additional MRI information about brain structure and function in these children.

"Understanding what problems they have and what might be causing them is the first step in trying to improve their long-term outcome," Dr. Walsh 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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MRI shows brain abnormalities in late preterm infants
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