Premature infants are at risk of developing encephalopathy of prematurity, which is associated with long-term neurodevelopmental delay. Erythropoietin was shown to be neuroprotective in experimental and retrospective clinical studies.
Lactoferrin (Lf) is a sialic acid (Sia)-rich, iron-binding milk glycoprotein that has multifunctional health benefits. Its potential role in neurodevelopment and cognition remains unknown. To test the hypothesis that Lf may function to improve neurodevelopment and cognition, the diet of postnatal piglets was supplemented with Lf from days 3 to 38. Expression levels of selected genes and their cognate protein profiles were quantitatively determined. The importance of our new findings is that Lf (1) upregulated several canonical signaling pathways associated with neurodevelopment and cognition; (2) influenced ~10 genes involved in the brain-derived neurotrophin factor (BDNF) signaling pathway in the hippocampus and upregulated the expression of polysialic acid, a marker of neuroplasticity, cell migration and differentiation of progenitor cells, and the growth and targeting of axons; (3) upregulated transcriptional and translational levels of BDNF and increased phosphorylation of the cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) response element-binding protein, CREB, a downstream target of the BDNF signaling pathway, and a protein of crucial importance in neurodevelopment and cognition; and (4) enhanced the cognitive function and learning of piglets when tested in an eight-arm radial maze. The finding that Lf can improve neural development and cognition in postnatal piglets has not been previously described.
Very preterm (VP) infants are at greater risk for cognitive difficulties that may persist during school-age, adolescence and adulthood. Behavioral assessments report either effortful control (part of executive functions) or emotional reactivity/regulation impairments.
Recent experimental studies have shown that early brain activity is crucial for neuronal survival and the development of brain networks; however, it has been challenging to assess its role in the developing human brain. We employed serial quantitative magnetic resonance imaging to measure the rate of growth in circumscribed brain tissues from preterm to term age, and compared it with measures of electroencephalographic (EEG) activity during the first postnatal days by 2 different methods. EEG metrics of functional activity were computed: EEG signal peak-to-peak amplitude and the occurrence of developmentally important spontaneous activity transients (SATs). We found that an increased brain activity in the first postnatal days correlates with a faster growth of brain structures during subsequent months until term age. Total brain volume, and in particular subcortical gray matter volume, grew faster in babies with less cortical electrical quiescence and with more SAT events. The present findings are compatible with the idea that (1) early cortical network activity is important for brain growth, and that (2) objective measures may be devised to follow early human brain activity in a biologically reasoned way in future research as well as during intensive care treatment.
Extreme prematurity and pregnancy conditions leading to intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) affect thousands of newborns every year and increase their risk for poor higher order cognitive and social skills at school age. However, little is known about the brain structural basis of these disabilities. To compare the structural integrity of neural circuits between prematurely born controls and children born extreme preterm (EP) or with IUGR at school age, long-ranging and short-ranging connections were noninvasively mapped across cortical hemispheres by connection matrices derived from diffusion tensor tractography. Brain connectivity was modeled along fiber bundles connecting 83 brain regions by a weighted characterization of structural connectivity (SC). EP and IUGR subjects, when compared with controls, had decreased fractional anisotropy-weighted SC (FAw-SC) of cortico-basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical loop connections while cortico-cortical association connections showed both decreased and increased FAw-SC. FAw-SC strength of these connections was associated with poorer socio-cognitive performance in both EP and IUGR children.
Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are pentameric ligand-gated cation channels well characterized in neuronal signal transmission. Moreover, recent studies have revealed nAChR expression in nonneuronal cell types throughout the body, including tissues involved in metabolism. In the present study, we screen gene expression of nAChR subunits in pancreatic islets and adipose tissues. Mice pancreatic islets present predominant expression of ?7 and ?2 nAChR subunits but at a lower level than in central structures. Characterization of glucose and energy homeostasis in ?7?2nAChR(-/-) mice revealed no major defect in insulin secretion and sensitivity but decreased glycemia apparently unrelated to gluconeogenesis or glycogenolysis. ?7?2nAChR(-/-) mice presented an increase in lean and bone body mass and a decrease in fat storage with normal body weight. These observations were associated with elevated spontaneous physical activity in ?7?2nAChR(-/-) mice, mainly due to elevation in fine vertical (rearing) activity while their horizontal (ambulatory) activity remained unchanged. In contrast to ?7nAChR(-/-) mice presenting glucose intolerance and insulin resistance associated to excessive inflammation of adipose tissue, the present metabolic phenotyping of ?7?2nAChR(-/-) mice revealed a metabolic improvement possibly linked to the increase in spontaneous physical activity related to central ?2nAChR deficiency.
A large body of published work shows that proton (hydrogen 1 [(1)H]) magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy has evolved from a research tool into a clinical neuroimaging modality. Herein, the authors present a summary of brain disorders in which MR spectroscopy has an impact on patient management, together with a critical consideration of common data acquisition and processing procedures. The article documents the impact of (1)H MR spectroscopy in the clinical evaluation of disorders of the central nervous system. The clinical usefulness of (1)H MR spectroscopy has been established for brain neoplasms, neonatal and pediatric disorders (hypoxia-ischemia, inherited metabolic diseases, and traumatic brain injury), demyelinating disorders, and infectious brain lesions. The growing list of disorders for which (1)H MR spectroscopy may contribute to patient management extends to neurodegenerative diseases, epilepsy, and stroke. To facilitate expanded clinical acceptance and standardization of MR spectroscopy methodology, guidelines are provided for data acquisition and analysis, quality assessment, and interpretation. Finally, the authors offer recommendations to expedite the use of robust MR spectroscopy methodology in the clinical setting, including incorporation of technical advances on clinical units.
In order to understand the pathophysiological mechanisms leading to the specific brain alterations observed in immature newborn babies, preclinical studies on animal models mimicking clinical reality are mandatory and are ideally coupled with imaging modalities transferable to the human scenario. The availability of MRI techniques on both clinical and animal scanners allows this methodological transfer from bench to bedside. The aim of this review is to give an overview of the recent findings in MRI of animal models of developmental disorders and emphasize what we can learn from MRI on these models.
Brain white matter connections have become a focus of major interest with important maturational processes occurring in newborns. To study the complex microstructural developmental changes in-vivo, it is imperative that non-invasive neuroimaging approaches are developed for this age-group. Multi-b-value diffusion weighted imaging data were acquired in 13 newborns, and the biophysical compartment diffusion models CHARMED-light and NODDI, providing new microstructural parameters such as intra-neurite volume fraction (?in) and neurite orientation dispersion index (ODI), were developed for newborn data. Comparative analysis was performed and twenty ROIs in the white matter were investigated. Diffusion tensor imaging and both biophysical compartment models highlighted the compact and oriented structure of the corpus-callosum with the highest FA and ?in values and the smallest ODI values. We could clearly differentiate, using the FA, ?in and ODI, the posterior and anterior internal capsule representing similar cellular structure but with different maturation (i.e. partially myelinated and absence of myelin, respectively). Late maturing regions (external capsule and periventricular crossroads of pathways) had lower ?in values, but displayed significant differences in ODI. The compartmented models CHARMED-light and NODDI bring new indices corroborating the cellular architectures, with the lowest ?in, reflecting the late maturation of areas with thin non-myelinated fibers, and with highest ODI indicating the presence of fiber crossings and fanning. The application of biophysical compartment diffusion models adds new insights to the brain white matter development in vivo.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a safe and high-resolution neuroimaging modality that is increasingly used in the neonatal population to assess brain injury and its consequences on brain development. It is superior to cranial ultrasound for the definition of patterns of both white and gray matter maturation and injury and therefore has the potential to provide prognostic information on the neurodevelopmental outcomes of the preterm population. Furthermore, the development of sophisticated MRI strategies, including diffusion tensor imaging, resting state functional connectivity, and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, may increase the prognostic value, helping to guide parental counseling and allocate early intervention services.
Erythropoietin (EPO) has been recognized as a neuroprotective agent. In animal models of neonatal brain injury, exogenous EPO has been shown to reduce lesion size, improve structure and function. Experimental studies have focused on short course treatment after injury. Timing, dose and length of treatment in preterm brain damage remain to be defined. We have evaluated the effects of high dose and long-term EPO treatment in hypoxic-ischemic (HI) injury in 3 days old (P3) rat pups using histopathology, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS) as well as functional assessment with somatosensory-evoked potentials (SEP). After HI, rat pups were assessed by MRI for initial damage and were randomized to receive EPO or vehicle. At the end of treatment period (P25) the size of resulting cortical damage and white matter (WM) microstructure integrity were assessed by MRI and cortical metabolism by MRS. Whisker elicited SEP were recorded to evaluate somatosensory function. Brains were collected for neuropathological assessment. The EPO treated animals did not show significant decrease of the HI induced cortical loss at P25. WM microstructure measured by diffusion tensor imaging was improved and SEP response in the injured cortex was recovered in the EPO treated animals compared to vehicle treated animals. In addition, the metabolic profile was less altered in the EPO group. Long-term treatment with high dose EPO after HI injury in the very immature rat brain induced recovery of WM microstructure and connectivity as well as somatosensory cortical function despite no effects on volume of cortical damage. This indicates that long-term high-dose EPO induces recovery of structural and functional connectivity despite persisting gross anatomical cortical alteration resulting from HI.
Abnormally high GH/IGF-I levels, most often caused by adenomas arising from pituitary somatotrophs, generate deleterious effects. We recently described a targeted secretion inhibitor (SXN101742) comprising a GHRH domain and the endopeptidase domain of botulinum toxin serotype D (GHRH-light chain endopeptidase type D domain [LC/D] associated to a heavy chain translocation domain [HN]) able to down-regulate the GH/IGF-I axis. In the present study, we compared the effect of a single iv bolus of a related molecule developed for clinical studies (SXN101959, 1 mg/kg) with a sc infusion of the somatostatin analog octreotide (SMS201-995, 10 ?g/kg · h) to lower GH/IGF-I activity in growing male rats. Ten days after administration of SXN101959 or initiation of the octreotide infusion, body and pituitary weights, body length, GH peaks, and IGF-I production were reduced by both treatments but to a greater extent with SXN101959. In contrast to unaltered GH gene expression and increased GH storage in pituitaries from octreotide-treated rats, the inhibition of GH secretion was associated with a collapse of both GH mRNA and protein level in pituitaries from SXN101959-treated rats, in line with a specific decrease in hypothalamic GHRH production, not observed with octreotide. SXN101959 did not induce major apoptotic events in anterior pituitary and exhibited a reversible mode of action with full recovery of somatotroph cell functionality 30 days after treatment. Octreotide infusion permanently decreased ghrelin levels, whereas SXN101959 only transiently attenuated ghrelinemia. Both treatments limited bone mass acquisition and altered specifically tissues development. In conclusion, SXN101959 exerts a powerful and reversible inhibitory action on the somatotropic axis. Specific features of SXN101959, including long duration of action coupled to a strong inhibition of pituitary GH synthesis, represent advantages when treating overproduction of GH.
Background: Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) injection in the corpus callosum (CC) of rat pups results in diffuse white matter injury similar to the main neuropathology of preterm infants. The aim of this study was to characterize the structural and metabolic markers of the acute inflammatory injury by high field MRI&MRS in vivo. Methods: 24h after a 1mg/kg injection of LPS in P3 rat pups, DTI and (1)H NMR were analyzed in conjunction to markers of cell death and inflammation using immunohistochemistry and gene expression. Results: MRI&MRS in the CC revealed an increase in lactate and free lipids and a decrease of the apparent diffusion coefficient. Detailed evaluation of the CC showed a marked apoptotic response assessed by Fractin expression. Interestingly the degree of ADC reduction correlated strongly with the natural logarithm of the Fractin expression, in the same region of interest. LPS injection further resulted in increased activated microglia clustered in the cingulum, a widespread astrogliosis and an increased gene expression of IL-1, IL-6 and TNF-?. Conclusion: this model was able to reproduce the typical MRI hallmarks of acute diffuse white matter injury seen in preterm infants and allowed the evaluation of in vivo biomarkers of acute neuropathology after inflammatory challenge.Pediatric Research (2013); doi:10.1038/pr.2013.242.
Amplitude-integrated electroencephalogram (aEEG) is a reliable monitoring tool for electrocortical activity with good predictive value in preterm infants. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a good neuroimaging tool to detect brain lesions and to evaluate brain maturation. We hypothesized that early aEEG measures, recorded over the first 3 d of life in very preterm infants, correlate with brain maturation and injury score assessed by conventional MRI at term-equivalent age.
Background:IUGR is a major risk factor for both perinatal and long term morbidity. Bovine lactoferrin (bLf) is a major milk glycoprotein considered as a pleiotropic functional nutrient. Impact of maternal supplementation with bLf on IUGR-induced sequelae, including inadequate growth and altered cerebral development, remains unknown.Methods:IUGR was induced through maternal dexamethasone infusion (100??g/kg during last gestational week) in rats. Maternal supplementation with bLf (0.85% in food pellet) was provided during both gestation and lactation. Pups growth was monitored and pup brain metabolism and gene expression were studied using in vivo (1)H NMR spectroscopy, quantitative PCR and microarray in the hippocampus at PND7.Results:Maternal bLf supplementation did not change gestational weight but increased the birth body weight of control pups (4%) with no effect on the IUGR pups. Maternal bLf supplementation allowed IUGR pups to recover a normalized weight at PND21 (weaning) improving catch-up growth. Significantly altered levels of brain metabolites (GABA, glutamate, N-acetylaspartate, N-acetylaspartylglutamate) and transcripts (BDNF, DMT-1 and glutamate receptors) in IUGR pups were normalized with maternal bLf supplementation.Conclusion:Our data suggest that maternal bLf supplementation is a beneficial nutritional intervention able to revert some of the IUGR-induced sequelae, including brain hippocampal changes.Pediatric Research (2013); doi:10.1038/pr.2013.199.
To evaluate the relationships between postnatal change in circulatory insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) concentrations, brain volumes, and developmental outcome at 2 y of age in very preterm infants.
In recent years, diffusion MRI has become an extremely important tool for studying the morphology of living brain tissue, as it provides unique insights into both its macrostructure and microstructure. Recent applications of diffusion MRI aimed to characterize the structural connectome using tractography to infer connectivity between brain regions. In parallel to the development of tractography, additional diffusion MRI based frameworks (CHARMED, AxCaliber, ActiveAx) were developed enabling the extraction of a multitude of micro-structural parameters (axon diameter distribution, mean axonal diameter and axonal density). This unique insight into both tissue microstructure and connectivity has enormous potential value in understanding the structure and organization of the brain as well as providing unique insights to abnormalities that underpin disease states. The CONNECT (Consortium Of Neuroimagers for the Non-invasive Exploration of brain Connectivity and Tracts) project aimed to combine tractography and micro-structural measures of the living human brain in order to obtain a better estimate of the connectome, while also striving to extend validation of these measurements. This paper summarizes the project and describes the perspective of using micro-structural measures to study the connectome.
Over the last decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of high-magnetic-field MRI magnets. However, the exact effect of a high magnetic field strength (B0 ) on diffusion-weighted MR signals is not yet fully understood. The goal of this study was to investigate the influence of different high magnetic field strengths (9.4?T and 14.1?T) and diffusion times (9, 11, 13, 15, 17 and 24?ms) on the diffusion-weighted signal in rat brain white matter. At a short diffusion time (9?ms), fractional anisotropy values were found to be lower at 14.1?T than at 9.4?T, but this difference disappeared at longer diffusion times. A simple two-pool model was used to explain these findings. The model describes the white matter as a first hindered compartment (often associated with the extra-axonal space), characterized by a faster orthogonal diffusion and a lower fractional anisotropy, and a second restricted compartment (often associated with the intra-axonal space), characterized by a slower orthogonal diffusion (i.e. orthogonal to the axon direction) and a higher fractional anisotropy. Apparent T2 relaxation time measurements of the hindered and restricted pools were performed. The shortening of the pseudo-T2 value from the restricted compartment with B0 is likely to be more pronounced than the apparent T2 changes in the hindered compartment. This study suggests that the observed differences in diffusion tensor imaging parameters between the two magnetic field strengths at short diffusion time may be related to differences in the apparent T2 values between the pools.
The development of the human brain, from the fetal period until childhood, happens in a series of intertwined neurogenetical and histogenetical events that are influenced by environment. Neuronal proliferation and migration, cell aggregation, axonal ingrowth and outgrowth, dendritic arborisation, synaptic pruning and myelinisation contribute to the plasticity of the developing brain. These events taken together contribute to the establishment of adult-like neuroarchitecture required for normal brain function. With the advances in technology today, mostly due to the development of non-invasive neuroimaging tools, it is possible to analyze these structural events not only in anatomical space but also longitudinally in time. In this review we have highlighted current state of the art neuroimaging tools. Development of the new MRI acquisition sequences (DTI, CHARMED and phase imaging) provides valuable insight into the changes of the microstructural environment of the cortex and white matter. Development of MRI imaging tools dedicated for analysis of the acquired images (i) TBSS and ROI fiber tractography, (ii) new tissue segmentation techniques and (iii) morphometric analysis of the cortical mantle (cortical thickness and convolutions) allows the researchers to map the longitudinal changes in the macrostructure of the developing brain that go hand-in-hand with the acquisition of cognitive skills during childhood. Finally, the latest and the newest technologies, like connectom analysis and resting state fMRI connectivity analysis, today, for the first time provide the opportunity to study the developing brain through the prism of maturation of the systems and networks beyond individual anatomical areas. Combining these methods in the future and modeling the hierarchical organization of the brain might ultimately help to understand the mechanisms underlying complex brain structure function relationships of normal development and of developmental disorders.
Children born preterm, and more specifically those with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), are prone to exhibit scholastic difficulties and behavioral problems later in development. Neuropsychological studies showed that their deficits in response inhibition and attention could be at the heart of these difficulties. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies using a Go/No-go task in preterm adolescents and adults suggest their use of an alternative neuronal pathway to compensate for a possible delayed development. However, little is known about the impact of IUGR at a functional neural network level. This study used fMRI to explore brain regions activated during a Go/No-go task in 20 preterm children aged 6-7 years, 10 of which were born with IUGR. Results showed that preterm children without IUGR preferentially activated fronto-temporal regions including the inferior frontal cortex, region known to be involved in successful response inhibition. In contrast, IUGR preterm children exhibited greater activation in the putamen, in the medial frontal cortex and parietal regions, specifically involved in attention demanding tasks, some being part of the default-mode network. These findings suggest that IUGR preterm children use different brain regions and a more diffuse network to perform the task, which interfere with goal-directed activity and may reflect inefficient attentional control. The differences observed in IUGR preterm children might relate to their higher risk for neurodevelopmental and behavioral disorders.
Brain function is tightly linked to the development of the cortex. Until recently, assessing the human cortical development and folding was not possible in vivo. It is magnetic resonance imaging and new post-processing image analysis tools that have improved the understanding of cortical development. The combination of conventional magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging has further allowed depiction of the relationship of changes in intracortical layering and cortical folding. Being able to follow these early developmental processes has elucidated changes in early brain development due to changed environmental conditions in fetal life such as twinning and fetal growth restriction and postnatal conditions such as prematurity. This review further illustrates new data on brain structural asymmetries linked to the emergence of early language functions.
The present study evaluated the potential of using the phase of T2* weighted MR images to characterize myelination during brain development and pathology in rodents at 9.4 T. Phase contrast correlated with myelin content assessed by histology and suggests that most contrast between white and cortical gray matter is modulated by myelin. Ex vivo experiments showed that gray-white matter phase contrast remains unchanged after iron extraction. In dysmyelinated shiverer mice, phase imaging correlated strongly with myelin staining, showing reduced contrast between white and gray matter when compared to healthy controls. We conclude that high-resolution phase images, acquired at high field, allow assessment of myelination and dysmyelination.
Preterm infants exhibit chronic deficits in white matter (WM) and cortical maturation. Although fetal infection/inflammation may contribute to WM pathology, the factors contributing to cortical changes are largely unknown. We examined the effect of fetal lipopolysaccharide (LPS) exposure on WM and cortical development as assessed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), electroencephalography (EEG), and histopathology in fetal sheep at preterm human equivalent age.
Significant human brain growth occurs during the third trimester, with a doubling of whole brain volume and a fourfold increase of cortical gray matter volume. This is also the time period during which cortical folding and gyrification take place. Conditions such as intrauterine growth restriction, prematurity and cerebral white matter injury have been shown to affect brain growth including specific structures such as the hippocampus, with subsequent potentially permanent functional consequences. The use of 3D magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and dedicated postprocessing tools to measure brain tissue volumes (cerebral cortical gray matter, white matter), surface and sulcation index can elucidate phenotypes associated with early behavior development. The use of diffusion tensor imaging can further help in assessing microstructural changes within the cerebral white matter and the establishment of brain connectivity. Finally, the use of functional MRI and resting-state functional MRI connectivity allows exploration of the impact of adverse conditions on functional brain connectivity in vivo. Results from studies using these methods have for the first time illustrated the structural impact of antenatal conditions and neonatal intensive care on the functional brain deficits observed after premature birth. In order to study the pathophysiology of these adverse conditions, MRI has also been used in conjunction with histology in animal models of injury in the immature brain. Understanding the histological substrate of brain injury seen on MRI provides new insights into the immature brain, mechanisms of injury and their imaging phenotype.
In recent years, considerable research has focused on the biological effect of endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Bisphenol A (BPA) has been implicated as an endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) due to its ability to mimic the action of endogenous estrogenic hormones. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of perinatal exposure to BPA on cerebral structural development and metabolism after birth. BPA (1mg/l) was administered in the drinking water of pregnant dams from day 6 of gestation until pup weaning. At postnatal day 20, in vivo metabolite concentrations in the rat pup hippocampus were measured using high field proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Further, brain was assessed histologically for growth, gross morphology, glial and neuronal development and extent of myelination. Localized proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy ((1)H MRS) showed in the BPA-exposed rat a significant increase in glutamate concentration in the hippocampus as well as in the Glu/Asp ratio. Interestingly these two metabolites are metabolically linked together in the malate-aspartate metabolic shuttle. Quantitative histological analysis revealed that the density of NeuN-positive neurons in the hippocampus was decreased in the BPA-treated offspring when compared to controls. Conversely, the density of GFAP-positive astrocytes in the cingulum was increased in BPA-treated offspring. In conclusion, exposure to low-dose BPA during gestation and lactation leads to significant changes in the Glu/Asp ratio in the hippocampus, which may reflect impaired mitochondrial function and also result in neuronal and glial developmental alterations.
Preterm birth is the major cause of infant mortality and morbidity in both developed and developing countries. In Europe, the prevalence rate of premature birth ranges from 5.5 to 11.4% - an average of 7.1% of all live births. In this report, we aim to compare the current health and social policies, as well as practices in 13 EU member states.
Extremely preterm infants commonly show brain injury with long-term structural and functional consequences. Three-day-old (P3) rat pups share some similarities in terms of cerebral development with the very preterm infant (born at 24-28 weeks of gestation). The aim of this study was to assess longitudinally the cerebral structural and metabolic changes resulting from a moderate neonatal hypoxic ischemic injury in the P3 rat pup using high-field (9.4 T) MRI and localized (1) H magnetic resonance spectroscopy techniques. The rats were scanned longitudinally at P3, P4, P11, and P25. Volumetric measurements showed that the percentage of cortical loss in the long term correlated with size of damage 6 h after hypoxia-ischemia, male pups being more affected than female. The neurochemical profiles revealed an acute decrease of most of metabolite concentrations and an increase in lactate 24 h after hypoxia-ischemia, followed by a recovery phase leading to minor metabolic changes at P25 in spite of an abnormal brain development. Further, the increase of lactate concentration at P4 correlated with the cortical loss at P25, giving insight into the early prediction of long-term cerebral alterations following a moderate hypoxia-ischemia insult that could be of interest in clinical practice.
Understanding human brain development from the fetal life to adulthood is of great clinical importance as many neurological and neurobehavioral disorders have their origin in early structural and functional cerebral maturation. The developing brain is particularly prone to being affected by endogenous and exogenous events through the fetal and early postnatal life. The concept of developmental plasticity or disruption of the developmental program summarizes these events. Increases in white matter, which speed up communication between brain cells, growing complexity of neuronal networks suggested by gray and white matter changes, and environmentally sensitive plasticity are all essential aspects in a childs ability to mentalize and maintain the adaptive flexibility necessary for achieving high sociocognitive functioning. Advancement in neuroimaging has opened up new ways for examining the developing human brain in vivo, the study of the effects of early antenatal, perinatal and neonatal events on later structural and functional brain development resulting in developmental disabilities or developmental resilience. In this review, methods of quantitative assessment of human brain development, such as 3D-MRI with image segmentation, diffusion tensor imaging to assess connectivity and functional MRI to visualize brain function will be presented.
Development of brain functions and the structural-functional correlates of brain injury remain difficult to evaluate in the young infant. Thus, new noninvasive methods capable of early functional diagnosis are needed. This review describes the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) for studying localization of brain function in the developing brain when standard clinical investigations are not available or conclusive. This promising neuroimaging technique has been successfully used in healthy newborns and in newborns with brain injury using different paradigms, including passive visual, somato-sensorial, and auditory stimulation. We summarize the major findings of previous fMRI studies in young infants, describe ongoing methodological challenges, and propose exciting future developments in using resting-state protocols and functional connectivity techniques to assist in evaluating early life brain function and its recovery from injury.
Diffusion magnetic resonance studies of the brain are typically performed using volume coils. Although in human brain this leads to a near optimal filling factor, studies of rodent brain must contend with the fact that only a fraction of the head volume can be ascribed to the brain. The use of surface coil as transceiver increases Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR), reduces radiofrequency power requirements and opens the possibility of parallel transmit schemes, likely to allow efficient acquisition schemes, of critical importance for reducing the long scan times implicated in diffusion tensor imaging. This study demonstrates the implementation of a semiadiabatic echo planar imaging sequence (echo time=40 ms, four interleaves) at 14.1T using a quadrature surface coil as transceiver. It resulted in artifact free images with excellent SNR throughout the brain. Diffusion tensor derived parameters obtained within the rat brain were in excellent agreement with reported values.
Previous studies reported impaired cerebral cortical gray matter (CGM) development and neurodevelopmental impairment after neonatal dexamethasone treatment for chronic lung disease (CLD) in preterm newborns. No long-term effects on neurocognitive outcome have yet been shown for hydrocortisone treatment. A prospective study was performed to evaluate the brain growth at term in preterm infants who did receive neonatal hydrocortisone for CLD. Thirty-eight preterm infants (n = 19 hydrocortisone, n = 19 controls) were matched for gestational age at birth. Gestational age and birth weight were 27.0+/- 1.4 versus 27.6+/- 1.1 wk (p = ns) and 826+/- 173 versus 1017+/- 202 g, respectively (p < 0.05). Infants were studied at term equivalent age. Hydrocortisone was started with a dose of 5 mg/kg/d for 1 wk, followed by a tapering course over 3 wk. A 3D-MRI technique was used to quantify cerebral tissue volumes: CGM, basal ganglia/thalami, unmyelinated white matter, myelinated white matter, cerebellum, and cerebrospinal fluid. Infants who were treated with hydrocortisone had more severe respiratory distress. There were no differences in cerebral tissue volumes between the two groups at term equivalent age. In conclusion, no effect on brain growth, measured at term equivalent age, was shown after treatment with hydrocortisone for CLD.
The neurodevelopmental disabilities of those who were born prematurely have been well described, yet the underlying alterations in brain development that lead to these changes remain poorly understood. Processes that are vulnerable to injury in the developing brain include maturation of oligodendrocyte precursors and genetically programmed changes in cortical connectivity; recent data have indicated that diffuse injury of the white matter accompanied by neuronal and axonal disruption is common in prematurely born infants. Recent advances in MRI include diffusion tensor imaging and sophisticated image analysis tools, such as functional connectivity, voxel-based morphometry, and mathematical morphology-based cortical folding strategies. These advanced techniques have shown that white matter structure is dependent on gestational age and have started to provide important information about the dynamic interactions between development, injury, and functional recovery in the preterm brain. Identification of early biomarkers for outcome could enable physicians and scientists to develop targeted pharmacological and behavioural therapies to restore functional connectivity.
We report on a new framework to investigate the rapid brain development of newborns. It is based on the analysis of depth maps of the cortical surface through the study of a displacement field estimated by surfacic optical flow methods. This displacement field shows local evolution of sulci directly on the cortical surface. Detection of its critical points is performed with the Helmholtz decomposition which allows us to identify sources of the developmental process. They can be viewed as growth seeds or in other terms points around which the sulcal growth organizes itself. We show the reproducibility of such growth seeds across 4 neonates and make a link of this new concept to the "sulcal roots" one proposed to explain the variability of human brain anatomy.
The causes of the current obesity pandemic have not been fully elucidated. Implication of environmental endocrine disruptors such as bisphenol A (BPA) on adipose tissue development has been poorly investigated.
In preterm infants, neurological signs and clinical manifestations of brain damage are limited criteria for diagnosis of neurologic sequelae. Early indicators of brain damage are needed and currently some specific biochemical markers of brain injury are investigated to assess regional brain damage after perinatal asphyxia in neonates. In this study Protein S-100 (PS-100) and Neuron Specific Enolase (NSE) serum levels were studied serially during the perinatal period in preterm neonates with perinatal asphyxia as markers of glial and neuronal damage respectively. Thirty outborn preterm infants with perinatal asphyxia were studied at 3, 24, 48 hours and 7 days of life. According to Apgar scores at 1 and cord blood pH and lacticidemia (LA), patients were divided in two groups: 15 of them (GA 33+/-1.2 wk, BW 1790+/-383 g) with severe asphyxia (Apgar <4, pH7.0+/-0.08, LA 6.29+/-0.79 mM/L) and 15 (GA 32+/-1.8 wk, BW 1810+/-290 g) with mild asphyxia (Apgar between 4-6, pH 7.18+/-0.05, LA 2.59+/-0.61 mM/L). Ten gestational age matched healthy preterm neonates were studied as control group. Cerebral ultrasound examinations (7 MHz) were performed at birth and repeated at 3 weeks of life. The results of this study show that neonates with severe asphyxia at any time had significantly more elevated mean serum levels of both markers compared to the group with mild asphyxia and to the control group (p<0.05). The values of control group were also significantly lower in comparison with that of mild asphyxia. In neonates with severe asphyxia, NSE values decreased constantly from birth to the seventh day of life, while PS-100 showed a different pattern increasing progressively between 3 h and 7 days. In neonates with mild asphyxia serum values of both markers showed decreasing levels through the study period. The results of this study suggest that perinatal asphyxia is associated with the release of different brain cellular proteins in the blood of preterm infants with different time course indicating specific regional cellular injury. The more elevated levels of NSE at birth found in the newborns with severe asphyxia could be considered as an early biomarker of neuronal necrotic damage in the ischaemic phase of perinatal cerebral hypoxic-ischaemic insult; progressive increase of PS-100 during the first week of life in the same neonates could be expression of apoptotic damage of glial cells occurring in the reperfusion phase of cerebral ischaemia.
Presently, a growing interest is focused on the origins of the "Metabolic Syndrome", a cluster of several metabolic disorders linking obesity, dyslipidemia, hypertension and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Clearly, genetic predisposition and deleterious lifestyle, including low physical activity and hypercaloric alimentation, have an influence on the occurrence of the Metabolic Syndrome. However, recent data suggest that the Metabolic Syndrome could also be "programmed" during intrauterine life by diverse insults to the growing foetus. Nicotine is the main stimulant and dependence-forming alkaloid found in tobacco, and despite medical advice, statistics show that 20-30% of female smokers continue the habit during gestation, representing around 10% of all pregnancies. In consequence, nicotine is one of the most universally dangerous chemicals to which developing foetuses are exposed. The present review focuses on recent epidemiological surveys and experimental animal studies that provide evidences indicating that pre- and postnatal nicotine exposure might be a contributing factor for the occurrence of metabolic disorders later in life.
We analyzed the developmental history of the subplate and related cellular compartments of the prenatal and early postnatal human cerebrum by combining postmortem histological analysis with in vivo MRI. Histological analysis was performed on 21 postmortem brains (age range: 26 postconceptional weeks to 6.5 years) using Nissl staining, AChE-histochemistry, PAS-Alcian blue histochemistry, Gallyas silver impregnation, and immunocytochemistry for MAP2, synaptophysin, neurofilament, chondroitin sulfate, fibronectin, and myelin basic protein. The histological findings were correlated with in vivo MRI findings obtained in 30 age-matched fetuses, infants, and children. We analyzed developmental reorganization of major cellular (cell bodies, growing axons) and extracellular (extracellular matrix) components of the subplate and the developing cortex/white matter interface. We found that perinatal and postnatal reorganization of these tissue components is protracted (extending into the second year of life) and characterized by well-delineated, transient and previously undescribed structural and molecular changes at the cortex/white matter interface. The findings of this study are clinically relevant because they may inform and guide a proper interpretation of highly dynamic and hitherto puzzling changes of cortical thickness and cortical/white matter interface as described in current in vivo MRI studies.
Poor fetal growth, also known as intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), is a worldwide health concern. IUGR is commonly associated with both an increased risk in perinatal mortality and a higher prevalence of developing chronic metabolic diseases later in life. Obesity, type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome could result from noxious "metabolic programming." In order to better understand early alterations involved in metabolic programming, we modeled IUGR rat pups through either prenatal exposure to synthetic glucocorticoid (dams infused with dexamethasone 100 µg/kg/day, DEX) or prenatal undernutrition (dams feeding restricted to 30% of ad libitum intake, UN). Physiological (glucose and insulin tolerance), morphometric (automated tissue image analysis) and transcriptomic (quantitative PCR) approaches were combined during early life of these IUGR pups with a special focus on their endocrine pancreas and adipose tissue development. In the absence of catch-up growth before weaning, DEX and UN IUGR pups both presented basal hyperglycaemia, decreased glucose tolerance, and pancreatic islet atrophy. Other early metabolic defects were model-specific: DEX pups presented decreased insulin sensitivity whereas UN pups exhibited lowered glucose-induced insulin secretion and more marked alterations in gene expression of pancreatic islet and adipose tissue development regulators. In conclusion, these results show that before any catch-up growth, IUGR rats present early physiologic, morphologic and transcriptomic defects, which can be considered as initial mechanistic basis of metabolic programming.
The segmentation of MR images of the neonatal brain is an essential step in the study and evaluation of infant brain development. State-of-the-art methods for adult brain MRI segmentation are not applicable to the neonatal brain, due to large differences in structure and tissue properties between newborn and adult brains. Existing newborn brain MRI segmentation methods either rely on manual interaction or require the use of atlases or templates, which unavoidably introduces a bias of the results towards the population that was used to derive the atlases. We propose a different approach for the segmentation of neonatal brain MRI, based on the infusion of high-level brain morphology knowledge, regarding relative tissue location, connectivity and structure. Our method does not require manual interaction, or the use of an atlas, and the generality of its priors makes it applicable to different neonatal populations, while avoiding atlas-related bias. The proposed algorithm segments the brain both globally (intracranial cavity, cerebellum, brainstem and the two hemispheres) and at tissue level (cortical and subcortical gray matter, myelinated and unmyelinated white matter, and cerebrospinal fluid). We validate our algorithm through visual inspection by medical experts, as well as by quantitative comparisons that demonstrate good agreement with expert manual segmentations. The algorithms robustness is verified by testing on variable quality images acquired on different machines, and on subjects with variable anatomy (enlarged ventricles, preterm- vs. term-born).
In gyrencephalic species such as sheep, precise anatomical and microstructural characterization of the consequences of fetal inflammation remains scarce. The goal of this study was to characterize changes in white matter (WM) structure using advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) following lipopolysaccharide (LPS) exposure in the preterm-equivalent fetal sheep.
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are zinc endopeptidases that block release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in neuromuscular synapses through cleavage of soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive fusion (NSF) attachment protein receptor (SNARE) proteins, which promote fusion of synaptic vesicles to the plasma membrane. We designed and tested a BoNT-derived targeted secretion inhibitor (TSI) targeting pituitary somatotroph cells to suppress growth hormone (GH) secretion and treat acromegaly. This recombinant protein, called SXN101742, contains a modified GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) domain and the endopeptidase domain of botulinum toxin serotype D (GHRH-LHN/D, where HN/D indicates endopeptidase and translocation domain type D). In vitro, SXN101742 targeted the GHRH receptor and depleted a SNARE protein involved in GH exocytosis, vesicle-associated membrane protein 2 (VAMP2). In vivo, administering SXN101742 to growing rats produced a dose-dependent inhibition of GH synthesis, storage, and secretion. Consequently, hepatic IGF1 production and resultant circulating IGF1 levels were reduced. Accordingly, body weight, body length, organ weight, and bone mass acquisition were all decreased, reflecting the biological impact of SXN101742 on the GH/IGF1 axis. An inactivating 2-amino acid substitution within the zinc coordination site of the endopeptidase domain completely abolished SXN101742 inhibitory actions on GH and IGF1. Thus, genetically reengineered BoNTs can be targeted to nonneural cells to selectively inhibit hormone secretion, representing a new approach to treating hormonal excess.
A study was undertaken to investigate the effect of neonatal hypoxic-ischemic (HI) brain damage and mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) treatment on the structure and contralesional connectivity of motor function-related cerebral areas.
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