Pregnancy and birth are the most incredible processes and journeys in the world, but there’s so much going on in our bodies that we can’t see. Researchers in the UK are a step closer to solving one more mystery, however: the path of our babies’ brain development.
Scientists from King’s College London, Imperial College London and the University of Oxford have this week released incredible images showing the development of babies’ brains from the womb to the outside world.
The images are stills from a very special body of research called the Developing Human Connectome Project, which has very big ambitions. Indeed, this project is aiming to map every single stage of a baby’s brain development, in the hopes of shedding light on the specific workings of the human brain.
In order to create these amazing images, the team carried out MRI scans on 40 sleeping babies, just days after they entered the world. The scans captured the babies’ brain growth in action, with the bright colour documenting a different action and reaction.
We have been working with both functional and diffusion MRI to uncover how the developing brain changes over time pic.twitter.com/9qr0wwTJlB— DevelopingConnectome (@DevelopingHCP) May 10, 2017
Explaining the significance of these early images, researcher Professor David Edwards said that the participating babies were ‘contributing hugely to science’.
And this is only the first step. Indeed, the team is planning to carry out tests on a further 1000 newborns as well as 500 babies in the womb. As their body of data grows, the research team hopes to get fresh insights into the workings of the human brain, with a particular focus on how autism and cerebral palsy develop.
Ultimately, the team’s aim is to create the most comprehensive and accurate image of how the brain develops, in all its intricacies.
“Having lots of data will mean we can study what is normal and abnormal in terms of brain development,” said Professor Edwards.
“We can start to answer important questions, like what happens to the brain when babies are born prematurely, or how does to brain develop differently in children with autism.”
We’re looking forward to seeing how this project plays out. In the meantime, we will just gaze in awe at these new stills and how incredible the human body is!
Be sure to share these with a fellow mum-to-be or new mum, to remind her just how amazing the miracle of life and birth is.