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Hope to treat neonatal brain damage

Wednesday November 25th 2020

It may be possible to repair damage from brain injury to newborn babies, British researchers have found.

The research team, led by Dr Tomoki Arichi at King's College London, UK, tested 24 babies by measuring their brain activity with functional MRI while they listened to sounds coupled with movements of their right hand.

This association was continued for 20 minutes after which the babies listened to the sound on its own. Their resulting brain activity was compared to that seen before the association was learned.

This showed altered brain activity, giving new information on normal learning and as well as implications for injured brains. The researchers believe it may be possible, for example, to induce a link between sound and movement as part of rehabilitation in cerebral palsy.

Details appeared on Monday (23 November) in in Cerebral Cortex.

Dr Arichi explained that this type of associative learning has rarely been tested in babies. He added: "We also found that when a baby is learning, it actually is activating lots of different parts of the brain, so it is starting to incorporate the 'wider network' inside the brain which is important for processing activity.

"This raises the possibility of trying to do something to help with that through targeted stimulation and learning associations. It is possible to induce activity inside the part of the brain that normally processes movement, for instance, just by using a single sound.

“This could be used in conjunction with rehabilitation or to try and help guide brain development early in life," he concluded.

Dall'Orso, S. et al. Cortical Processing of Multimodal Sensory Learning in Human Neonates. Cerebral Cortex 18 November 2020 doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhaa340


Tags: Brain & Neurology | Child Health | UK News

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