With the help of modern technology, scientist are scanning foetuses in the womb to help unravel the mysteries of mental health disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.
Researchers from Kings College London are using an innovative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system to scan the brains of unborn babies to track their cell growth and connections.
The scans will be used to create a series of 3D images showing the development of certain areas of the brain – in particular the hippocampus, which regulates memory and the cerebral cortex where thought occurs.
Primarily the images will be used to monitor the development of a foetus’s brain during pregnancy and highlight any potential brain abnormalities as soon as possible.
Neuro-imaging specialist Professor May Rutherford said: "My dream is that in future any parent, especially those whose babies are at high risk of disease, could have an MRI and get a readout of their child's whole brain plotted automatically into charts to compare them."
Previous attempts to chart the brain development of unborn babies have been limited due to their high activity level in the womb. The new MRI used in the project is capable of capturing great detail even if a baby is moving around.
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