Can we predict which early babies need extra support?

Published on: 20/04/2018

A specialist unit in Edinburgh has been studying the effect of premature birth on brain development and how to improve care for preterm babies. The team are also looking at why some babies develop well and others face extra difficulties.

The study is aiming to answer three questions:

– How can we identify babies who are likely to have impairment so that we can target the right interventions to the right babies?

– What are the biological factors that lead to atypical brain development?

– What are the protective factors that enable some preterm babies to do very well?

The team have looked at how premature birth alters the brain pathways and affects emotional processes, social function, learning, vision and movement by MRI scanning babies and examining their placentas (post-birth).

The researcher found that the brain function known to support learning throughout life is present at the time of birth, but in premature infants is altered. This will hopefully be useful in highlighting those babies most in need of support.

Professor James Boardman of Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory, said:

‘If MRI in the baby period does predict later abilities, then it may serve as a good way of detecting those children who need extra support in the early years.’


For further information, see this RCM article.