HINTS ABOUT THE FURTHER MYSTERIES OF THE FETAL BRAIN

New research finds that full-term babies are born with a key collection of networks fully formed in their brains. The findings, reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, challenges some previous theories about the brain’s activity and how the brain develops. Researchers using fMRI scans focused on “resting state” networks in the brains of 70 babies, born at between 29 and 43 weeks of development. Resting state networks are connected systems of neurons in the brain that are constantly active, even when a person is not focusing on a particular task, or during sleep. The researchers found that these networks were at an adult-equivalent level by the time the babies reached the normal time of birth. One network of particular interest identified in the babies is the “default mode” network, thought to be involved in introspection and daydreaming. Professor David Edwards, lead author of the study, said, “Some researchers have said that the default mode network is responsible for introspection—retrieving autobiographical memories and envisioning the future, etc. The fact that we found it in newborn babies suggests that either being a fetus is a lot more fun than any of us can remember—lying there happily introspecting and thinking about the future—or that this theory is mistaken.” [Imperial College London news release, Nov. 2010] Read More
Publication Date: 
06/2011