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Developing Brain Institute

Contact number | 202-476-7409
Fetal Brain Lab

Advanced Imaging Techniques

The Developing Brain Institute is developing innovative imaging techniques to measure the structure, connectivity, and metabolism of the fetal brain.

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Conventional imaging and other technologies often cannot detect fetal brain abnormalities early enough in pregnancy for effective diagnosis and treatment. These abnormalities affect the lifelong health, cognitive function and social-behavioral development of the fetus.

The Developing Brain Institute, directed by Catherine Limperopoulos, Ph.D., is housed in the Division of Diagnostic Imaging and Radiology and affiliated with the Prenatal Pediatrics Institute and Newborn Medicine at Children's National Hospital. Our research focuses on the developing brain, both in utero and in the newborn stages of life.

We are developing innovative, noninvasive MRI techniques to measure the structure, connectivity and metabolism of the brain in healthy and high-risk fetuses in ways that cannot be done with conventional MRI or ultrasound studies.

It is our long-term goal to be able to identify unborn babies at risk for impaired brain development as soon as possible, so that the proper interventions and clinical planning can take place. These measures can greatly improve children's health and development at birth and throughout their lives.

The lab's work is focused on the latest diagnostic imaging techniques, research on fetal brain development and clinical trials for pregnant women.

Our lab offers:

  • World-renowned research designed to deliver next-generation care: We are one of only a handful of research facilities in North America dedicated to fetal brain research. This unique focus allows us to conduct research that can have a profound impact on prenatal diagnosis and care.
  • Pioneering research: Our extensive database of fetal brain development, in both normal and abnormal fetuses, is one of the most robust in the world. This tool provides ample data for researchers to conduct thorough and accurate comparison analyses of fetal brain development. One research patient, Amarie Crawford, shares her story in our photo gallery.
  • Leading fetal brain imaging experts: We train physicians around the world in a wide variety of disciplines, including military personnel, to use quantitative MRI to study the developing brain.

Advanced Fetal Brain Imaging: Our Training and Research

Our team is training professionals throughout the United States and around the world in these groundbreaking technological processes. Through training and research partnerships, we are accelerating our research while finding clinical applications for new techniques to help patients now.

Our ultimate goal is to use our research findings to help guide early medical and surgical care for women with high-risk pregnancies.

    Kiara Crawford and her mother, Michelle Dallas, explain why they decided to enroll Amarie in a research study at Children’s National. This research study seeks to understand how preterm birth affects the cerebellum, a brain region responsible for motor coordination and that also may play a role in attention and language.

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    Potential Academic Partners

    Researchers and professionals seeking training can learn more about our studies and how to collaborate with us by contacting our research team.

    Referring Physicians

    We can help physicians set up patient referrals to our lab through the Prenatal Pediatrics Institute: Call the Prenatal Pediatrics Institute at 202-476-7409. Ask about referral to the Developing Brain Institute for advanced diagnostic imaging.

    Pregnant Women

    If you are pregnant, learn more about our studies and how to participate by contacting our clinical research team at 202-476-3765 or by email.