Neonatology

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Figure Caption: Diffusion Tensor Imaging Colour Map of Neonatal Brain obtained with Motion Correction Techniques. The image was obtained without use of sedation and with a much lower acoustic noise level than often used clinically. The red, blue and green colours represent neuronal fibre tracts oriented in the left-right, superior-inferior and posterior-anterior directions, respectively.
Future Directions

During 2010, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit will amalgamate with the Pediatric Critical Care Unit at the Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario. This will allow neonatal MRI research in London to expand to include term infants with brain injury. In particular, MRI may play a role in monitoring brain cooling therapy in these infants. The Children’s Hospital will also acquire a 3T MRI system and will recruit an additional MRI Physicist to be involved in neonatal MRI research. We look forward to strong collaboration among the scientists/clinicians in the London area.

Despite the advances in neonatal and perinatal care, the premature infant is at greatly increased risk for neurological impairment compared to the term-born infant. Impairments range from subtle problems, such as learning difficulties and behavioral problems, to the most severe, such as cerebral palsy (CP) and cognitive deficits. For premature infants weighing less than 1.5 Kg, the occurrence of cognitive and behavioural problems is approximately 25% to 50% and that of CP is approximately 5% to 15%. Our group has applied quantitative MRI techniques at 3T to (i) further develop prognostic indicators of neurodevelopmental outcome and (ii) investigate the influence of preterm birth and related risk factors on early human brain development.

Researchers
N. Gelman
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
R.T. Thompson
Director, MR Spectroscopy
Y. Bureau
Director, Inferential Statistics
Technologies
3T PET/MR

Collaborators
D.S. Lee
Paediatrics
O. da Silva
Epidemiology/Biostatistics
J.M. Rogers
Neuroradiology
Key Accomplishments

Our group has developed the first Canadian research program involving brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy applied to new-born infants who are at risk for subsequent neurodevelopmental disorders. World-wide, there are only a handful of research programs taking on this challenging endeavour, and most of these are located at top research centers in the world. Internationally, the Lawson program was the first to perform neonatal MRI research at 3 Tesla (i.e., higher than the conventional magnetic field strength of 1.5 Tesla). We have implemented, developed and adapted software tools for neonatal imaging with careful consideration of (i) the technical challenges of imaging at higher magnetic field strengths, (ii) the great differences in MRI properties of neonatal brain versus the adult brain and (iii) the special practical and health considerations of the neonate. For example, we have been able to minimize acoustic noise in neonatal MRI scans and acquire the scans without the use of sedation by development of specialized motion correction techniques. More recently we have developed a specialized method of 2D morphological imaging specifically designed for tissue properties of the neonatal brain.

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