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Cambridge centre for perinatal neuroscience
Based at the Rosie Hosptial, and led by Dr Topun Austin, current research includes:
- Optical-EEG: funded by Action Medical Research, this project will see the development of an integrated optical-EEG system to look at the relation between blood flow and electrical activity, particularly in infants with seizures, to see if it is possible to improve seizure detection and ultimately treatment of seizures in these babies.
- Cambridge Human Imaging and Longitudinal Development (CHILD): this study is a collaboration with Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at the Autism Research Centre (www.arc.cam.ac.uk). Building on their previous work investigating antenatal hormone levels and the risk of autism in later life, this study will focus on understanding the different effects of prenatal and postnatal hormones on early brain development and behaviour in typically developing children and in siblings of children with a diagnosis of autism. Participants will undergo a series of behavioural tests soon after birth as well as functional brain assessment using optical topography and an advanced structural brain magnetic resonance scan. The overall aim is to hone in on early biomarkers that may be predictive of risk for autism.
- Behaviour and Resting-state Activity In Newborns (BRAIN): this study uses optical imaging to study how different areas of the newborn brain communicate with each other both in healthy infants and those with brain injury and to correlate these markers of brain development with the babies behaviour. The ultimate goal is to see whether new neuroprotective management strategies impacts on brain connectivity.
Making connections in the brain: using the technique of optical imaging we are able to see how the brain develops connections. Invisible red light is absorbed by the oxygen carrying molecule haemoglobin. We shine multiple lights on the infants head and can see spontaneous changes in blood flow in different regions of the brain – when one area of the brain ‘communicates’ with another area we see changes in blood flow occurring at the same frequency. In the image below right the blood flow in the temporal lobe (red) is ‘oscillating’ at a similar frequency to the blood flow in the same area on the opposite side (left temporal lobe). In effect the two areas of the brain are communicating with each other.
- Fast Optical Tomography On Newborns (FOTON): funded by the EPSRC, this study will see the development of a unique optical imaging system designed to generate three dimensional images of regional blood flow and oxygenation. Despite the complexity of such an instrument, it is portable, enabling repeated studies to be carried out at the cot-side in even the sickest infants.
- Study of Autoregulation Monitoring in BAbies (SAMBA): funded by SPARKS, this looks at changes in the circulation of sick and premature babies that occur in the hours immediately after birth. Focus is on how blood flow in the brain is controlled and how this is influenced by heart function and blood pressure.
- Safeguarding the Brains Of Our Smallest Children (SafeBoosC): a multicentre European trial funded by the Danish Research Council, this study is investigating whether it is possible to keep brain oxygen level within target limits. If successful, a larger trial will see if monitoring brain oxygen levels improves neurodevelopmental outcomes.