An unborn brain flowering connections

We’ve mentioned some amazing advances in brain scanning unborn babies before on Mind Hacks and this image is another step in that remarkable science.

The coloured fibres in the image are still-developing white matter circuits in the brain of an unborn baby at 36 weeks, picked out by a diffusion MRI scan.

The scan is from a paper just published in Topics in Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

Diffusion-tensor imaging or DTI can identify white matter connections, the brain’s ‘cabling’, by picking out which water molecules in the brain only move along restricted paths.

It’s a bit like having a tube in a beehive. Even if you had no idea where the tube was, you could work out its location if you had information on the bee’s movements, because bees inside the tube can only move in one direction.

The same principal applies and DWI looks for the white matter ‘tubes’ by looking for where the brain’s water molecules can only move in certain directions.

This relies on the brain being relatively still so these scans are difficult to do in unborn babies because of their tendency to move around in the womb.

Nevertheless, when they work, the results are spectacular, and we can see the unborn brain flowering into a neurally connected marvel.

Link to locked study on Fetal Diffusion Imaging.


  1. Posted December 15, 2011 at 2:23 am | Permalink

    Gorgeous images.

  2. Posted December 16, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Unborn babies do not exist. Just like undead corpses do not. The phenomenon you are trying to discuss is called a fetus.

    • Marjorie Berbaum
      Posted December 19, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

      Fetus, unborn baby, same thing!

      • metamorphatron
        Posted December 20, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        No, correct terminology is important. A baby has been born, a fetus has not. The line of birth is very important, since it’s where the right to life begins.

    • Gavin
      Posted December 20, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      If that were true, then why do they list 2 people when a pregnant woman is killed? Why do numerous embryology text books say that that “fetus” is a separate human being?

    • Jonathan
      Posted December 20, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      You are arguing semantics, whereas the author effectively communicated the message and drew both you and I to read the story.

  3. boonie
    Posted December 19, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Permalink


    Doctrinaire much ? Lighten up.

    • Rev Dr Robert Webste
      Posted December 20, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

      There is certainly no doubt that if people leave the “fetus/unborn baby” alone that the chances that it will develop into a normal human being are very great. It is only as abortionists have intentionally chosen to interrupt the status of a developing organism that life is threatened and ended.

  4. Erin
    Posted December 27, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    As someone who has lost several unborn babies, I can tell you not one person told me “I’m so sorry you lost your fetus” or sent a card that said, “your fetus grew wings…” etc etc… That’s just silly. If you need to use medical terms to help yourself feel better, awesome. But seriously, if you told me my lost babies were just fetus’ I’d have some words for you. Peace on your journey =)

  5. Alice
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    My gosh, why the chatter attempting to correct the author? By all means everyone has a right to express their opinion, and I’d love to hear why you have issues with calling a “spade a spade”.
    An unborn baby is the proper terminology and the politically correct, if you will, during these times. Yes, a fetus IS an unborn baby. When someone asks, “what is a fetus?”, the answer is “an unborn baby” period! Also, in these SCIENTIFIC articles, the fetus is referred to as an “unborn baby”. I do think you have an internal issue on this subject. Allow us to help you work through it and support you.

    • Alice
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      By the way, this is a fascinating and interesting article. Thank you.

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] An unborn brain flowering connections – […]

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  3. […] can see a unborn mind flowering into a neurally connected marvel” – My, Vaughan Bell writes […]

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