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MedUni Vienna develops pioneering MRI technologies for the foetal brain

(Vienna, 4th June 2013) Researchers in the MedUni Vienna’s Department of Neuroradiology and Musculoskeletal Radiology are developing pioneering technologies that will use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to investigate the development of the foetal brain in even more detail as early as the pre-natal stage, i.e. while the foetus is still in the womb. “This will enable us to detect pathological changes in brain development early on,” says Daniela Prayer, Head of the Department of Neuroradiology and Musculoskeletal Radiology. “What other hospitals are able to do postnatally, we are already able to do prenatally.”

Recognising the MedUni Vienna’s world-leading position in the development of this technology, two international congresses are also heading to Vienna: from Wednesday, 5th June to Saturday, 8th June, the “Ultrasound meets Magnetic Resonance” Congress, led by Daniela Prayer, and the ESMRN Congress (European Society of Magnetic Resonance in Neuropediatrics), which will discuss the diagnostic imaging of the brain’s prenatal to postnatal development, will be held consecutively in Vienna.

Greater diagnostic and therapeutic certainty
Imaging of the foetal brain with MRI is an additional measuring tool for more detailed investigations that provide greater therapeutic and diagnostic certainty. Says Prayer: “This also means more certainty for parents; in most cases, we are able to reassure them and allay their fears after the MRI scan. Without MRI, we couldn’t do this.”

In a study led by Veronika Schöpf, the scientists at the MedUni have also discovered that resting state networks are already present in the foetal brain and that these can be imaged using functional imaging. These networks form the basis of thought and motor processes and remain in a state of readiness at rest. Their activity increases when they are given appropriate stimulation. Using MRI technology, it is possible to track the progress of the development of brain activity in the foetus. As a result, potential malfunctions can be detected while the foetus is still in the womb.

Alongside functional magnetic resonance imaging, which is not yet established as a standard procedure, there are also the diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) technologies, which are already in clinical use. “A combination, i.e. the combined use of functional and structural data, modelled for each week of pregnancy, would be recommended for medical practice. This would enable us to take an accurate look at the brain's development process," says Schöpf.

Service:
“Ultrasound meets Magnetic Resonance” and Congress of the European Society of Magnetic Resonance in Neuropediatrics (ESMRN) in Vienna, Imperial Riding School Renaissance Hotel Vienna (Ungargasse 60, 1030 Vienna). All information: www.esmrn.com.