23 April 2014 – Source: www.TechnologyReview.com

Mapping Autism in the Developing Brain

“Researchers in London plan to examine the brains of living fetuses in order to understand how the brain organizes itself during critical stages of its development. The hope is that a dynamic map of the connections forming in the unborn’s brain will help researchers better understand the origins of disorders such as autism.

“We are very interested in studying how the brain develops normally and, by that means, to [get a reference point from which to better detect and study] abnormal development,” says Jo Hajnal, an imaging specialist at King’s College London and one of the leaders of the Developing Human Connectome Project.

The project is one of several efforts to create a three-dimensional map of the neuronal connections in the human brain. The U.S. BRAIN Initiative seeks to reconstruct the activity of every neuron in a brain (see “Why Obama’s Brain-Mapping Project Matters”) and the E.U. Human Brain Project seeks to create a detailed computational simulation of the human brain. The Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle also develops three-dimensional maps that combine gene activity data with structural detail of human and other animal brains and has recently described its own project to study the developing human brain by examining the cellular structure and organization of gene activity in post-mortem fetal brains.”

Full article available here: http://www.technologyreview.com/news/526346/mapping-autism-in-the-developing-brain/

Tags: Jo HajnalTeam and Collaborators, News & Media Updates

09 December 2013 – Source: KCL.ac.uk

MRI Brain Development Study in the Spotlight

“A project led by King’s College London that uses state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologies to map brain connections in babies before and just after birth, has been featured in the Physics World Focus on Medical Imaging, published in December 2013.

In the article entitled ‘What goes on in babies’ brains’ Jon Cartwright writes about The Developing Human Connectome Project, which seeks to examine the period of most rapid change and development in the human brain, from 20 weeks, when the foetus is still in the womb, to 44 weeks, when it is a newborn baby. This development period is critical in terms of the development and presentation of neurological conditions such as autism and cerebral palsy.

Professor Jo Hajnal, Chair in Imaging Science at King’s College London, will use world-leading MRI facilities in the Evelina Children’s Hospital Neonatal Unit at St Thomas’ Hospital to map the brain connections of 1500 babies during the critical development period. Alongside the King’s College London team, researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Oxford are also collaborating on the project.

The results will offer important insights into how the brain develops and how it is affected by genetic variation or problems like preterm birth. The landmark study is described as ‘no small undertaking’, as MRI has rarely been performed on unborn babies and the potential results could have a remarkable impact on our knowledge of brain circuitry.

The project started in September 2013 and the first findings, which will be made freely available to the global research community, are expected within two years. The work has been made possible by a six-year €15m ‘Synergy grant’ from the European Research Council (ERC).”

Full article available here: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/medicine/research/divisions/imaging/newsevents/newsrecords/2013/Dec/MRI-brain-development-study-in-the-spotlight.aspx

02 December 2013 – Source: PhysicsWorld.com

What goes on in babies’ brains?

“Some 85 billion neurones and upwards of 100 trillion connections – the adult human brain is the most complex object in the known universe. But how does such a rich neural network grow from a tiny foetus? And how does that growth affect the way our brains ultimately function? Scientists have a rough picture of how a brain develops in the womb. About three weeks after conception, brain cells begin to form at the tip of the embryo into a tube that will eventually form the spinal cord. This tube then begins to form a brain, where the neurones – brain cells – develop and begin to form contacts with each other. Until the foetus is about 20 weeks old, some quarter of a million cells are growing every minute…”

Full article available here on pages 7-8: http://mag.digitalpc.co.uk/fvx/iop/physworld/medical-imaging13/

Tags: Jo HajnalTeam and Collaborators, News & Media Updates

27 November 2013 – Source: cordis.europa.eu

Advancing MRI Scans for Foetal Development

“Mapping the development of babies while they are still in the womb is the premise of a European project which aims to design techniques designed to pinpoint problems earlier, and develop appropriate therapies.

The dHCP (‘Developing Human Connectome Project’) project aims to create a picture of how babies’ brains develop and how they form connections – particularly during the third trimester. This is being made possible thanks to a synergy grant from the European Research Council (ERC) of EUR 3.2 million.

The project has a team of engineers, mathematicians and scientists and is being led by Professor David Edwards from King’s College London, alongside colleague Professor Joseph Hanjal, and together with Professor Daniel Rueckert from the Department of Computing at Imperial College London and Professor Steve Smith from the University of Oxford. Their aim is to use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to track brain connectivity in foetuses and newborns, providing insights into neuropsychiatric conditions such as autism.”

Full article available here: http://cordis.europa.eu/news/rcn/36286_en.html

Tags: David EdwardsDaniel RueckertNews & Media Updates

10 April 2013 – Source: BBC.co.uk

Babies’ brains to be mapped in the womb and after birth

©King's College London, Centre for Developing Brain

“UK scientists have embarked on a six-year project to map how nerve connections develop in babies’ brains while still in the womb and after birth. By the time a baby takes its first breath many of the key pathways between nerves have already been made. And some of these will help determine how a baby thinks or sees the world, and may have a role to play in the development of conditions such as autism, scientists say.

But how this rich neural network assembles in the baby before birth is relatively unchartered territory.

Researchers from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, King’s College London, Imperial College and Oxford University aim to produce a dynamic wiring diagram of how the brain grows, at a level of detail that they say has been impossible until now…”

Full article available here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21880017

Tags: David EdwardsNews & Media Updates

20 March 2013 – Source: Imperial.ac.uk

Tiny Minds

“Professor Daniel Rueckert (Computing) discusses the Developing Human Connectome Project, a major effort to map babies’ brains.”

Audio media via podcast found here: http://wwwf.imperial.ac.uk/imedia/content/view/3518/tiny-minds

Tags: Daniel RueckertNews & Media Updates

05 March 2013 – Source: Imperial.ac.uk

New funding to unlock the mysteries of how babies’ brains develop

A new project to discover how brains develop during the last third of pregnancy has received €15 million from the European Research Council (ERC) as one of only 11 new prestigious Synergy grants throughout Europe.

Red and green brainProfessor Daniel Rueckert (Computing) has received a €3,250,000 share of the funding for the Developing Human Connectome Project, led by King’s College London. The project will create a picture of how babies’ brains develop and form connections. This will allow researchers to understand how development differs in conditions such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder, where parts of the brain have are thought to have abnormal connection patterns.

Full article available here: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_5-3-2013-9-46-36

Tags: Daniel RueckertNews & Media Updates

21 February 2013 – Source: Wired.co.uk

London neuroscience centre to map ‘connectome’ of foetal brain

©King's College London, Centre for Developing Brain“A state-of-the-art imaging facility at St Thomas’ Hospital in London has been awarded a 15m euro grant to map the development of nerve connections in the brain before and just after birth.

The Centre for the Developing Brain — which is partly funded by King’s College London (KCL) — has built a unique neonatal Magnetic Resonance Imaging Clinical Research Facility based in the intensive care unit of the Evelina Children’s Hospital at St Thomas’. It is one of two centres in the world — the other being at Imperial College — to have such a clinical research facility and associated scanner within a neonatal intensive care unit.

Over the next few years a team headed up by David Edwards, a consultant neonatologist and KCL Professor of Paediatrics and Neonatal Medicine, will build up a diagram of connections in the brain of babies as they develop in the womb and then after they are born. The aim is to understand how the human brain assembles itself from a functional and structural perspective. The resulting map is called a connectome and is the brain equivalent of the human genome. It will be made available to the research community to help improve understanding of neurological disorders….”

Full article available here: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-02/21/neonatal-brain-imaging

Tags: David EdwardsNews & Media Updates