AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 1, 2017

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White Matter Structure in the Brain Predicts Cognitive Function at Ages 1 and 2

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This kind of new brain imaging study could help identify cognitive problems and psychiatric disorders very early and develop appropriate interventions

A new study led by UNC School of Medicine researchers concluded that patterns of white matter microstructure present at birth and that develop after birth predict the cognitive function of children at ages 1 and 2. “To our knowledge, this study is the first to measure and describe the development of white matter microstructure in children and its relationship to cognitive development from the time they are born until the age of two years,” said John H. Gilmore, MD, senior author of the study and director of the Early Brain Development Program in the UNC Department of Psychiatry. White matter is the tissue in the brain that contains axon fibers, which connect neurons in one brain region to neurons in another region. White matter is critical for normal brain function, and little is known about how white matter develops in humans or how it is related to growth of cognitive skills in early childhood, including language development. In the study, a total of 685 children received diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) scans of their brains. DTI is a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique that provides a description of the diffusion of water through tissue and can be used to identify white matter tracts in the brain and describe the organization and maturation of the tracts.

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arthur gindin MD AANS | January 19, 2017 at 7:41 pm

fabulous study. now we can go to the parents and tell them that their 1 or 2 year-old child will have poor “cognitive ability” and suggest that they not waste time educating him/her. I wonder how these predictions will be borne out by cognitive studies at ages 5, 10, etc. referred to in the article as “later childhood.” Since this research only measures cognitive ability, is there any hope for the artistic or otherwise endowed children or is “cognitive” the only important variable? Hopefully this research will be extended to the womb and these cognitively-impaired children can be aborted as early as possible. Perhaps the appropriate DNA studies will also lead us to nirvana. My genetics professor was certain that eugenics didn’t work, but that was 50 years ago.