MRI scans don't emit radiation, thus minimizing risk to the fetuses during the procedure. The technique showed significant connections between half of the dozens of brain areas tested.
The findings might provide groundwork for understanding how and when brain development may go awry during gestation, Thomason said. This may possibly lead to better understanding of conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia and autism, which are thought to arise from disrupted brain networks, she said.
"If we know what gets in the way of those [normal] processes, we have a better shot at treating those disorders," Thomason said. "It's not just about early identification. An additional valuable outcome is, when you can see what normal looks like and see what disruption looks like, you have the opportunity to pick out patterns that tell you about the origin of that disease," she explained.
"The brain can be a tattletale to what is going on in those diseases," Thomason added, "and that can help us develop novel treatments."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on fetal development.
SOURCES: Moriah Thomason, Ph.D., assistant professor, pediatrics, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit; Feb. 20, 2013, Science Translational Medicine
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