Children with Down syndrome show a wide variation in their later neurodevelopmental and functional abilities. It is currently not possible to predict how severe any problems will be. There is little information on the way the brain develops in Down syndrome. Understanding what happens in fetal life may allow us to predict future problems more accurately.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a method of obtaining pictures of the inside of the body. While ultrasound is generally excellent for showing the anatomy of the normal fetus (baby), magnetic resonance is usually better for detecting and assessing both normal structures and abnormalities in detail. We are interested in using MR imaging to study the brain in Down syndrome in order to understand more about the relationship between brain growth and development and later abilities of the child, and whether imaging can help to predict the range and severity of later problems.
We therefore plan to image your baby once or twice prior to delivery. Where possible we also seek your permission to scan your baby after delivery and again at around six months of age.
You will be shown the images after the examinations and given a copy on USB The scans will be looked at by an expert and we will send you a written report. Sometimes we may contact you by phone or invite you into a clinic to discuss the results further.
At your neonatal scan we would also like to look at your baby’s development, including their vision, using a standardised test prior to scan. A developmental pediatrician or psychologist will carry out these assessments on the same day of the imaging. They will last between 15 and 30 minutes.
We are also interested in your child’s long term development. Our collaborators, Professor Michael Thomas and his team have a unit set up to look at development in infants and children with Down syndrome.
We would also like to compare our imaging data with the expression of specific genes on chromosome 21, which is affected in Down syndrome. We seek your permission to take a sample of your baby’s saliva for later DNA analysis.