Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Into the foetal brain connectome

Elucidating the structure and function of the neuronal processing units within the brain is a complex endeavour. EU-funded scientists explored human brain development and neuroplasticity using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and advanced image analysis technologies.
Into the foetal brain connectome
Foetal diffusion tensor and resting-state functional acquisitions are two MRI-based techniques that were recently developed. Under the umbrella of the FABRIC (Exploring the formation and adaptation of the brain connectome) project, scientists used these methods to observe developing foetal brains. The goal was to determine normative data sets and develop markers for disease during pregnancy.

The FABRIC team developed data processing techniques that enabled study of prenatal functional brain activity during the second and third trimester of gestation. A major milestone, they observed functional synchronicity in the developing foetal brain that correlated with changes in eye movement patterns.

Researchers successfully established normative data sets of developing foetal brains for both resting-state functional MRI scans and diffusion tensor scans. Using foetuses with pathological conditions, they developed anatomical template sets of neuroimages. This aided in the development of coherent models of morphological brain development.

Corpus callosum agenesis refers to a rare birth defect where the cross-hemispheric connections in the brain are partially or completely missing. Using 12 normal and 12 corpus callosum agenesis cases, researchers observed altered rewiring in the foetal brain connections. In other words, disrupted development of the structural connectome was seen in foetuses having this disease.

Research outcomes were disseminated widely via television documentary, interviews, social and printed media presence. This helped the FABRIC team in networking and forming strong international research collaborations.

The newly developed foetal MRI technologies and image analysis methods could be used to study the dynamically-shaping structural and functional brain networks. Besides insight into the structural and functional capacity of the brain, this could prove to be useful for detection of brain pathologies. Project activities have also revealed clinically-relevant disease markers for abnormal foetal brain development during the second and third trimester of pregnancy.

Related information


Foetal, brain, connectome, MRI, image analysis, diffusion tensor, resting-state functional acquisition, marker, functional synchronicity, model, corpus callosum agenesis
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