The first digital atlas showing how the human brain develops in the womb has been published in Nature by a global research team led by the University of Oxford.
A team of over 200 researchers around the world, including DPAG's Professor Zoltan Molnar, has published the first digital atlas showing the dynamics of normative maturation of each hemisphere of the fetal brain between 14 and 31 weeks' gestation - a critical period of human development.
The atlas was produced using over 2,500 3-dimensional ultrasound (3D US) brain scans that were acquired serially during pregnancy from 2,194 fetuses in the INTERGROWTH-21st Project, which is a large population-based study of healthy pregnant women living in eight diverse geographical regions of the world (including five in the Global South), whose children had satisfactory growth and neurodevelopment at 2 years of age.
The study is unique because, for the first time, an international dataset of 3D US scans, collected using standardised methods and equipment, has been analysed with advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and image processing tools to construct a map showing how the fetal brain matures as pregnancy advances.
Zoltan comments, "I am very glad to be one out of the 200 researchers of this INTERGROWTH-21st Project, the first digital atlas showing the normal maturation of the fetal brain between 14 and 31 weeks’ gestation. Many thanks to Ana Namburete, Stephen Kennedy and José Villar who led the study at University of Oxford for bringing together various disciplines and including us. To understand what is normal neurodevelopment, it is important to conduct large population-based studies of healthy pregnant women around the world.”