fMRI during natural sleep as a method to study brain function during early childhood

Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.
NeuroImage (Impact Factor: 6.36). 01/2008; 38(4):696-707. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.08.005
Source: PubMed


Many techniques to study early functional brain development lack the whole-brain spatial resolution that is available with fMRI. We utilized a relatively novel method in which fMRI data were collected from children during natural sleep. Stimulus-evoked responses to auditory and visual stimuli as well as stimulus-independent functional networks were examined in typically developing 2-4-year-old children. Reliable fMRI data were collected from 13 children during presentation of auditory stimuli (tones, vocal sounds, and nonvocal sounds) in a block design. Twelve children were presented with visual flashing lights at 2.5 Hz. When analyses combined all three types of auditory stimulus conditions as compared to rest, activation included bilateral superior temporal gyri/sulci (STG/S) and right cerebellum. Direct comparisons between conditions revealed significantly greater responses to nonvocal sounds and tones than to vocal sounds in a number of brain regions including superior temporal gyrus/sulcus, medial frontal cortex and right lateral cerebellum. The response to visual stimuli was localized to occipital cortex. Furthermore, stimulus-independent functional connectivity MRI analyses (fcMRI) revealed functional connectivity between STG and other temporal regions (including contralateral STG) and medial and lateral prefrontal regions. Functional connectivity with an occipital seed was localized to occipital and parietal cortex. In sum, 2-4 year olds showed a differential fMRI response both between stimulus modalities and between stimuli in the auditory modality. Furthermore, superior temporal regions showed functional connectivity with numerous higher-order regions during sleep. We conclude that the use of sleep fMRI may be a valuable tool for examining functional brain organization in young children.

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    • "SPGR and bSSFP images are acquired with incremented flip angles and the bSSFP images are additionally acquired with 2 phase-cycling patterns (0° and 180°). A high-resolution anatomical T1-weighted image and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging data were additionally acquired [23, 24]. Priority was given in this order since we were predominately interested in assessing white matter maturation as measured by the myelin water fraction (MWF), a surrogate measure of myelin content [25, 26]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Etiological studies of many neurological and psychiatric disorders are increasingly turning toward longitudinal investigations of infant brain development in order to discern predisposing structural and/or functional differences prior to the onset of overt clinical symptoms. While MRI provides a noninvasive window into the developing brain, MRI of infants and toddlers is challenging due to the modality's extreme motion sensitivity and children's difficulty in remaining still during image acquisition. Here, we outline a broad research protocol for successful MRI of children under 4 years of age during natural, non-sedated sleep. All children were imaged during natural, non-sedated sleep. Active and passive measures to reduce acoustic noise were implemented to reduce the likelihood of the children waking up during acquisition. Foam cushions and vacuum immobilizers were used to limit intra-scan motion artifacts. More than 380 MRI datasets have been successfully acquired from 220 children younger than 4 years of age within the past 39 months. Implemented measures permitted children to remain asleep for the duration of the scan and allowed the data to be acquired with an overall 97% success rate. The proposed method greatly advances current pediatric imaging techniques and may be readily implemented in other research and clinical settings to facilitate and further improve pediatric neuroimaging.
    Pediatric Radiology 08/2013; 44(1). DOI:10.1007/s00247-013-2752-8 · 1.57 Impact Factor
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    • "Neuroimaging data were collected on a Siemens Allegra 3.0T scanner with a phased array coil. Consistent with previous neuroimaging research using auditory stimuli with sleeping toddlers (Redcay et al., 2007) the paradigm consisted of 20sec blocks separated by 15sec rest periods. Blocks for each emotion condition (very angry, mildly angry, happy and neutral) were presented four times per run in a semi-counterbalanced design based on a Williams' Latin Square. "
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    ABSTRACT: Experiences of adversity in the early years of life alter the developing brain. However, evidence documenting this relationship often focuses on severe stressors and relies on peripheral measures of neurobiological functioning during infancy. In the present study, we employed functional MRI during natural sleep to examine associations between a more moderate environmental stressor (nonphysical interparental conflict) and 6- to 12-month-old infants' neural processing of emotional tone of voice. The primary question was whether interparental conflict experienced by infants is associated with neural responses to emotional tone of voice, particularly very angry speech. Results indicated that maternal report of higher interparental conflict was associated with infants' greater neural responses to very angry relative to neutral speech across several brain regions implicated in emotion and stress reactivity and regulation (including rostral anterior cingulate cortex, caudate, thalamus, and hypothalamus). These findings suggest that even moderate environmental stress may be associated with brain functioning during infancy.
    Psychological Science 03/2013; 24(5). DOI:10.1177/0956797612458803 · 4.43 Impact Factor
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    • "In contrast to adult fMRI studies, which examine brain function after the establishment of mature functional circuitry, four new studies have utilized the sleep fMRI method to examine the brain's response to language within the first 12-36 months of life. This method, described extensively elsewhere (Nordahl et al., 2008; Redcay et al., 2007), can be summarized by 4 simple steps. First, parents are instructed to eliminate all naps from their child's typical routine. "
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    ABSTRACT: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a powerful tool for examining brain function but has yet to be systematically applied to the study of brain development in autism. Recently, however, scientists have begun to apply fMRI during natural sleep as a mechanism to study function in the developing brain. When considering the study of autism, this method opens considerable doors because it eliminates biases of past studies which only sampled from high-functioning, older populations. This paper describes the application of sleep fMRI as a way to study both extrinsic and intrinsic brain functions in autism between 12 and 36 months. Preliminary studies that use sleep fMRI method show that defects in the superior temporal gyrus (STG) in response to language are early emerging in autism and can be found in as young as 14 months in age. As such indices of abnormal early development of the STG may prove useful in the search for a biomarker of autism detectable during the infancy period. From a theoretical standpoint, examining sleep fMRI studies in autism gains some clarity when placed in context of the more established literature on structural brain development of autism which suggests that autism involves early brain overgrowth. Studies of plasticity in autism have yet to be done, but it is likely that the window of opportunity for altering the course of brain development in autism begins within the first year of life. The ability to do so relies on improving and streamlining early identification and thus early treatment efforts.
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