[184] Study of normal and abnormal brain development

Study of normal and abnormal brain development in high risk neonates with neuro-imaging

Our research includes clinical and fundamental neurosciences projects with the aim to use and develop neuro-imaging techniques for the study of normal and altered brain development in high-risk neonate and in animal models of brain injury.

Clinical: New magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques such as 3D-quantitative volumetry and diffusion in the newborn infant are used to delineate the temporal and anatomic development of the brain in the preterm and the term newborn. In collaboration with the Centre d’Imagerie Biomédicale (CIBM) and the Radiology Department (Dr. Lazeyras, Geneva) we use advanced MRI techniques and neuro-developmental assessment to look at the effects of intra-uterine growth restriction on structural and functional development of the brain. Our MONIBRAIN project aims at defining markers the brain developmental vulnerability to injury. The combination of MRI, of bedside continuous electrophysiological brain activity recordings and of measures of serum markers (Proteomic Centre, Dr. Sanchez, Geneva) should allow to better delineate brain damage and consequences on longterm neurodevelopmental outcome of asphyxiated newborns and preterm infants. This study will be extended in 13 neonatal units in Europe (www.NEOBRAIN.eu). In collaboration with the School of Psychology (Pr. Barisnikov, University of Geneva)) and the Child Development Unit of the Pediatric Department (Mme Forcada, CHUV-Lausanne) we will be studying the development of the executive functions in extremely preterm infants.

Fundamental: In order to understand the alteration of brain development seen in high-risk infants, we have developed translational research of brain development compromise such as intra-uterine growth restriction or foetal exposition to adverse conditions and acute hypoxic-ischemic brain injury in the newborn rat pup. These experimental paradigms allow us to study mechanisms of damage and repair in the developing brain. The use of high-field and advanced MRI techniques in collaboration with the CIBM (Pr. Gruetter, EPFL, Lausanne) will allow us to correlate MRI alterations with histopathological changes. These studies will enhance the understanding of developmental brain injury and should lead to the development of therapeutic strategies and their assessment.

Obesity and Foetal Programming


Obesity in children and adolescents is increasing as well as its complications such as type 2 diabetes. It represents an important health problem and challenge. Adipose tissue is considered as an endocrine tissue that secretes adipokines and cytokines that induce an inflammatory state in part responsible of the adverse outcome. Our study aims to analyse the inflammatory and blood clotting status of obese children and adolescents in collaboration with the “Plateforme de Recherche Clinique” of the Department of Children and Adolescent (Pr. Siegrist)


We are participating in the research program on adverse conditions during gestation and are looking at the effect of growth restriction on the pancreas and adipose tissue development. We are specifically looking changes of expression of metabolic and pancreatic genes during postnatal development using molecular analysis. Within the concept of Foetal origins of Adult Disease we are also looking at epigenetic changes in these adverse conditions.

Group Publications