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New UC San Diego Research Reveals Previously Unknown Details Of Infant Brains

The standard way of tracking infants’ brain growth is by measuring the size of their heads with a measuring tape.

Aired 8/12/14 on KPBS News.

UC San Diego researchers hope a better understanding of normal brain development in infants could lead to insights into how and when developmental disorders arise.

Researchers in a new study, published in JAMA Neurology, used a series of magnetic imaging scans to study 87 healthy babies beginning a few days after birth to 3 months of age.

The images reveal unprecedented detail of brain structure and development.

Lead researcher Dr. Dominic Holland, of UC San Diego's neurosciences department, said it’s crucial to define what normal growth is.

“And that really hasn’t existed before in detail for whole brain and regions of interest, and being able to figure out where somebody lies on the percentile plot," Holland explained.

His study found the newborn brain grows 1 percent a day immediately after birth, but slows to less than half that rate within three months.

The research also revealed babies who are born just one week premature have a brain that's 4 percent to 5 percent smaller than what's expected for a full-term baby.

Holland hopes a better understanding of normal brain development in infants could lead to insights into how and when developmental disorders arise.

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