MRC Logo It now seems that brain wiring develops in the first few months of life itself among human beings. A latest study suggests that normal brain function takes place due to a process called myelination, wherein insulating layers form around nerve cells. It was mentioned that damage to myelination process may result in a number of neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as autism and intellectual disability.

Babies that are very premature apparently face a higher risk of myelination damage. It is predicted that the newly developed imaging technique empowers clinicians to directly analyze whether the treatments given to premature infants help in normal brain development. Also the biological roots of neurological and psychiatric disorders can be seemingly understood with the help of this technology.

“We already know that insulating myelin sheaths form the cornerstone of our neurodevelopment. Without them, messages to and from the brain would be in disarray. Our new imaging technique opens up an exciting new avenue to investigate early-stage brain development which could be pivotal in understanding devastating disorders such as autism, intellectual disability and developmental delay. By understanding exactly how myelin develops and when this process breaks down, we hope to be able to tailor treatments for vulnerable patients, such as premature babies, and understand what differentiates those that develop normally from those who have some delay or disability,” remarked lead author, Dr. Sean Deoni, from King’s College London.

At the time of the study, 14 healthy babies born at full term were scanned while asleep by means of a specially-modified, quiet, baby-friendly MRI scanner. In order to build up a picture of their myelin development, the infants were scanned monthly between 3 and 11 months. Once nine month old, myelination appeared in all brain areas. It was registered that some regions had developed to a near adult-like level. The model employed in this study may be extremely crucial for gauging the alterations within the brain taking place in relation to neurological and intellectual disorders.

The study is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.