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Fetal/Neonatal Brain Development and Injury Group


The mortality rate of infants born prematurely has fallen dramatically in recent years. In developed countries, the survival of infants born below 1,500 grams now approaches 90%. However, in these survivors of prematurity the prevalence of adverse neurodevelopmental outcome is enormous. In fact, the greatest advances in survival have been among the sickest and smallest infants, which is also the population at greatest risk for brain injury. It is not surprising, therefore, that prematurity and its complications form the largest etiological subgroups of many neurodevelopmental disorders. One in two newly diagnosed cases of cerebral palsy, for example, occurs in survivors of prematurity. Furthermore, between 25 and 50% of ex-preterm children demonstrate debilitating behavioral or learning problems by the time they reach school age.

The same advances in medical technology that allow us to support life in the initial, critical post-natal period also allows us to investigate the ex-utero neural maturation and neuro-pathology in Very Low Birth Weight Infants (< 1,500 g birth weight) and Extreme Low Birth Weight Infants (< 1,000 g birth weight) during neonatal intensive care. While our group is interested in a wide range of fundamental biological and biomedical problems relating to the care for prematurely born infants, we are particularly interested in identifying physiological antecedents of neonatal brain injury, especially those pertaining to germinal matrix-intraventricular hemorrhage.

The Team

This project brings together a powerful team of clinicians and researchers from Boston's Children's Hospital and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to investigate human development and to reduce the incidence of neurodevelopmental pathology in prematurely born infants.