Pediatric and Developing Brains. Neonates to Adolescents

Functional neuroimaging in pediatrics (incl. neonates) is highly challenging. Motion artifacts result in significant rejection of data, and limited attention spans place severe restrictions on paradigm length. Ongoing multi-modality research programs are studying neurocognitive development in infants and children, both from the standpoint of normal development, and within the context of developmental disorders (e.g. autism spectrum disorders). New MRI developments are essential for the extension of fMRI, DTI and other advanced MRI/MRS protocols into neonatal populations, for whom diagnostic and prognostic tools for future quality-of-life are extremely limited.

 

DTI images and neonatal images featuring movement.

 

Neonatal Neuroimaging. Perinatal brain injury is a major health problem of rising incidence with potential life-long consequences. It can lead to cognitive and behavioural abnormalities including cerebral palsy, epilepsy and learning difficulties. The behavioural, neuroanatomical and electrophysiological abnormalities detectable by currently available methodologies are poor predictors of long-term impairments. While there has been much research on the functional evaluation of the brain in adults using the tools of cognitive neuroscience (particularly EEG/ERPs and fMRI), these methods have not yet been adapted to provide valuable clinical tools to assess neonatal brain function.  Research in this theme is aimed at advancing MRI technology to develop tools that will allow prediction of long-term neuro-cognitive outcomes that can be administered non-invasively in the first week(s) of life. The auditory system is well developed at birth and can provide a measure of cortical reactivity and the integrity of the ascending neural pathway through the brainstem and midbrain using fMRI. The presentation of complex sounds will test sound recognition, and the repetition of patterns will probe statistical learning (both critical in normal language trajectories).

Neonatal set-up and images taken here at CFMM.

Neuroimaging in Children. Currently we focus our research on school age children (≥6yrs old), due to the difficulty that younger children can have with remaining still during 45-60 minute MRI session even with tools like our “0 T” simulator and system to provide motion feedback to children during practice.

The 0 Telsa practice scanner over at the Western Interdisciplinary Research Building.

With our amazing Collaborators over at the Western Interdisciplinary Research building and BrainsCAN, we provide functional MRI scans for the following labs in the area of the developing brain:

  • Ansari   (Development of number processing and Arithmetic) 
  • DeRibaupierre (Brain Variability in children with Intraventricular hemorrhage)
  • Joanisse  (Language, Reading and Cognitive Neuroscience lab)
  • Morton  (Attention and mental flexibility and age related changes)