A comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms that underlie brain development in premature infants and newborns is crucial for the identification of interventional therapies and rehabilitative strategies. fMRI has the potential to identify such mechanisms, but standard techniques used in adults cannot be implemented in infant studies in a straightforward manner. We have developed an MR safe wrist stimulating robot to systematically investigate the functional brain activity related to both spontaneous and induced wrist movements in premature babies using fMRI. We present the technical aspects of this development and the results of validation experiments. Using the device, the cortical activity associated with both active and passive finger movements were reliably identified in a healthy adult subject. In two preterm infants, passive wrist movements induced a well localized positive BOLD response in the contralateral somatosensory cortex. Furthermore, in a single preterm infant, spontaneous wrist movements were found to be associated with an adjacent cluster of activity, at the level of the infant’s primary motor cortex. The described device will allow detailed and objective fMRI studies of somatosensory and motor system development during early human life and following neonatal brain injury.
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This study was funded in full by a Biomedical Research Center (BRC) project grant. AA was supported by a PhD studentship from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) UK. TA was supported by a fellowship from the Medical Research Council (MRC) UK. The authors thank Dr Nathanael Jarrassé, Dr Sivakumar Balasubramanian, and Dr Nicholas Roach for their technical assistance throughout the development of the device, Ms Joanna Allsop for her contribution during the experimental phase of the study, Mr Richard Woodward and the parents of the patients for agreeing participation in the study.
Associate Editor Xiaoxiang Zheng oversaw the review of this article.
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Allievi, A.G., Melendez-Calderon, A., Arichi, T. et al. An fMRI Compatible Wrist Robotic Interface to Study Brain Development in Neonates. Ann Biomed Eng 41, 1181–1192 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10439-013-0782-x
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
- MRI-compatible robot
- Fibre optic sensor
- MR safe
- Neural correlates
- Cortical activation
- Primary motor cortex
- Somatosensory cortex
- Premature birth
- Newborn brain
- Cerebral palsy