Revolutionary child brain database launches

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A database of MRI scans of normally developing children has been launched that could revolutionalise the understanding of childhood brain function, injury and disease. It includes brain scans of 500 children from 7 days to 18 years-old and aims to be representative of the population at large.

The understanding of child brain function is still a grey area, despite the fact that the young brain can show remarkable properties.

For example, a 2001 book by Antonio Battro (sample chapter: pdf) describes a three year old boy named ‘Nico’ who had the whole of his right hemisphere removed to control life-threatening epilepsy.

Nevertheless, he has developed with very little impairment and has turned out to be a bright and engaging child, despite the fact that a similar operation in adults would be profoundly disabling.

One difficulty with many current studies of brain development in children is there is no precise reference for what constitutes ‘normal’ development.

The database will provide a wealth of data for clinicians and researchers to make accurate comparisons, rather than relying on detecting the presence of abnormalities by eye, or by comparison with small or ad-hoc control groups.

The journal NeuroImage just published a early-release copy of the article describing the development and potential uses of the data. The project has been realised by a huge list of individuals, listed as the ‘Brain Development Cooperative Group’, and by neuroscientist Alan Evans.

Link to NeuroImage abstract ‘The NIH MRI study of normal brain development’.
Link to summary from NIH.

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