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Towards the “Baby Connectome”: Mapping the Structural Connectivity of the Newborn Brain
Published: Tuesday, February 07, 2012
Author: Olga Tymofiyeva et al.

by Olga Tymofiyeva, Christopher P. Hess, Etay Ziv, Nan Tian, Sonia L. Bonifacio, Patrick S. McQuillen, Donna M. Ferriero, A. James Barkovich, Duan Xu

Defining the structural and functional connectivity of the human brain (the human “connectome”) is a basic challenge in neuroscience. Recently, techniques for noninvasively characterizing structural connectivity networks in the adult brain have been developed using diffusion and high-resolution anatomic MRI. The purpose of this study was to establish a framework for assessing structural connectivity in the newborn brain at any stage of development and to show how network properties can be derived in a clinical cohort of six-month old infants sustaining perinatal hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). Two different anatomically unconstrained parcellation schemes were proposed and the resulting network metrics were correlated with neurological outcome at 6 months. Elimination and correction of unreliable data, automated parcellation of the cortical surface, and assembling the large-scale baby connectome allowed an unbiased study of the network properties of the newborn brain using graph theoretic analysis. In the application to infants with HIE, a trend to declining brain network integration and segregation was observed with increasing neuromotor deficit scores.