A new method for assessing neurological development of fetuses?

September 05, 2002

A preliminary study in this week's issue of THE LANCET outlines how light-emitting technology could help in the future assessment of fetal neurological development.

There have been only a few studies of visual evoked response in human fetuses, and all have focused on general changes such as heart rate, body movements, and eye movements. Curtis Lowery and colleagues from the University of Arkansas, USA, investigated the feasibility of recording visual evoked brain activity in the human fetus. This was done using a non-invasive technique called magnetoencephalography (MEG), in which a light conductor is passed over the mother's abdomen to stimulate a visual response from the fetus; the corresponding fetal brain activity can then be measured.

180 light flashes within a six-minute period were targeted at ten fetuses aged between 28 and 36 weeks, of whom four showed brain responses.

Curtis Lowery comments: "In this preliminary study, we have shown that brain activity to visual stimuli can be recorded by use of MEG in human fetuses. Further studies with improved stimulation protocols and light delivery mechanisms will increase the success rate of the technique. Serial recordings of visual evoked brain activity in conjunction with auditory evoked brain activity will be a new method to study the neurological development of the fetus."
Contact: Dr Curtis Lowery, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 4301 W. Markham, Slot 518, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA; T) +1 501 686 5847; F) +1 501 686 8945; E) LoweryCurtisL@uams.edu


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