Recently, the results of a study conducted by the Boston Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles were published in the JAMA Pediatrics medical journal involving EEG scans of two month-old infants.  The purpose of this study was to see if early signs of stress could be detected in the infants’ brains depending on the mental state of their mothers. While the investigators did find an association between these two elements, they were surprised by how early it showed up given the age of the participants. According to Laura Pierce, a PhD researcher in the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience and first author of the study, “We think it tells us something about how the brain is developing.”

In total, 113 babies were enrolled into primary-care practices for low-income families in Boston and Los Angeles according to EurekAlert.  Their mothers were then given questionnaires about stressful moments in their lives and their own present stress levels, with the intention being to measure the mothers’ level of stress in general.  Next, the babies were hooked up to EEG machines while their mothers held them EurekAlert says and they watched videos showing infant toys.  Among the babies who participated in the study, only 70 of them had significant EEG data to show.  What the researchers of the study found was that babies whose mothers had high levels of stress typically had low power in higher frequency bands, namely gamma and beta, while the lower frequency bands like delta and theta were high in power.  Now since EEG scans do change overtime, Pierce and her fellow researchers plan to repeat the study on the infants throughout their first years and in increments of “24 and 36 months” after that EurekAlert says to see if their predictions on the initial scans determines how the children develop in their growth.  What Pierce hopes to determine from this study is what environmental factors affect a child’s development in their infant years to figure out how their families can be best supported no matter the circumstances.

About Electroencephalograms (EEGs)

Electroencephalograms are typically used to scan electrical activity in the brain in order to diagnose and/or evaluate those with Epilepsy.  Though using different waves of frequency bands such as alpha, beta, theta, and delta previous studies have found a connection between each frequency band and a cognitive brain function.  Typically, high frequency bands are associated with “Complex cognitive functions” Pierce says which includes language while low frequency bands are associated with the opposite. Because an infant’s brain is in its early stages of development, it’s not unusual for a higher power reading to be found on low frequency bands.  But unusually high power readings in the low frequency bands has “Been observed in kids who have experienced psychosocial adversity,” according to Pierce, causing it to be “Interpreted in some cases as a sign of delayed brain development.”

About Boston Children’s Hospital

The primary pediatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, it is home to the world’s largest research enterprise that is based at a pediatric medical center.  Since 1869, its discoveries have benefited children as well as adults. More than 3,000 scientists, nine members of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 members of the National Academy of Medicine and 11 Howard Hughes Medical Investigators are currently a part of Boston Children’s research community.  Originally, it was established a 20-bed hospital for children. Today, there is a 415-bed comprehensive center for pediatric and adolescent health care. For more, visit our Vector and Thriving blogs. You can also follow us on social media @BostonChildrens, @BCH_Innovation, Facebook and YouTube.

Source: Eurek Alert

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