The Developing Brain Research Laboratory, directed by Catherine Limperopoulos, PhD , is housed in the department of Diagnostic Imaging and Radiology and affiliated with the Fetal and Transitional Medicine Program at Children’s National Health System. Our research focuses on the developing brain, both in utero and in the newborn stages of life.
We are developing advanced MRI techniques to examine the structure, connectivity, and metabolism of the brain in ways that cannot be done with conventional MRI studies. It is our long-term goal to be able to identify babies with impaired brain growth as soon as possible, so that the proper interventions and clinical planning can take place.
This research study seeks to better understand brain development in premature babies. We are particularly interested in an area of the brain called the cerebellum. The cerebellum is responsible for motor coordination of the body and also plays a role in higher functions such as attention, cognition and language.
This study investigates the development of the cerebellum in premature babies, and its relationship with early development.
1) Antecedents of Impaired Brain Development in Fetuses with Congenital Heart Disease (Healthy Starts for Tiny Hearts Study)
In this study we seek to identify whether, why, and when brain development is affected in the unborn baby diagnosed with Congenital Heart Disease. The testing involves two fetal MRI scans and echocardiograms during the second half of pregnancy, two brain MRI scans after birth (pre- and post-operatively), and neurobehavioral evaluation of the newborn baby.
2) Cerebellar Development in the Pre-Term Infant (CRIB Study)
Given that babies born prematurely are at risk for cerebellar injury and poor long-term developmental outcomes, in this study we use serial MRI imaging and bedside neurobehavioral assessments to study this critical period in a premature infant’s life. This study involves a preterm MRI in an MRI-safe incubator, and a term-equivalent MRI, in addition to bedside neurobehavioral assessments and two long-term developmental follow-up visits.
The ABC Study – or Antenatal Brain Cardiac study – Seeks to better understand brain development in babies with congenital heart defects. Although infants with a heart problem are at greater risk for problems with brain development, the precise effect, if any, of the heart problem on the development of the brain remains poorly understood.
We study the brain as it is developing during pregnancy, through a technique called [fetal MRI]. Enrolled babies have also an MRI scan shortly after birth to look at the brain in the newborn period. We also aim to evaluate the le relationship between brain development and cognitive and social-behavioral development in this population.
To compare regional cerebral cortical microstructural organization between preterm infants at term-equivalent age (TEA) and healthy full-term newborns, and to examine the impact of clinical risk factors on cerebral cortical micro-organization in the preterm cohortRead More
Blood, oxygen and nutrients follow function, with more flowing to rapidly developing cerebral regionsRead More
The long-term goal of our research is to translate these tools rapidly into clinical practice and develop early MR imaging biomarkers that can help monitor high-risk pregnancies and develop windows of opportunity for therapeutic intervention aimed at repairing and restoring fetal health and well-being.Read More
Subject motion is a major challenge in functional magnetic resonance imaging studies (fMRI) of the fetal brain and placenta during maternal hyperoxia. We propose a motion correction and volume outlier rejection method for the correction of severe motion artifacts in both fetal brain and placenta. The method is optimized to the experimental design by processing different phases of acquisition separately.More
Brain injury is a major complication in neonates with complex congenital heart disease. Preliminary evidence suggests that fetuses with congenital heart disease are at greater risk for brain abnormalities. However, the nature and frequency of these brain abnormalities detected by conventional fetal MR imaging has not been examined prospectively.More